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Washington state senator is latest to wade into loot box debate

Washington state Senator Kevin Ranker is the latest official to seek clarity over the highly divisive use of loot boxes in video games. The Democrat and former San Juan County Commissioner has charged the State Gambling Commission with identifying whether or not the boxes constitute gambling.

Along with fellow Democrat Senators Reuven Carlyle and Karen Keiser, Ranker submitted Senate Bill 6266 to the Washington Legislature, asking for the Washington state gambling commission to conduct a study looking into whether “mechanisms that provided randomised virtual items in online games or apps” should be considered gambling under Washington law.

The bill also wants to examine if these mechanisms have any place in games whatsoever. Perhaps more importantly, the bill wants to put in motion an examination into if minors and young people,” who may be more vulnerable to gambling addiction,” should have access to games with loot boxes.

Speaking to Washington’s News Tribune, Ranker was highly critical of games containing loot boxes. He argued: “If [parents] realised how predatory these games are then they wouldn’t want them under their Christmas tree, they wouldn’t want them going to their kids.”

This is far from the first time that loot boxes have came under scrutiny. Last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II game was thrust into the international limelight due to it employing loot boxes that required users to make microtransactions – on top of the £40+ already paid to purchase the game.

A Hawaiian state senator is reportedly also looking into the loot boxes and is keen to restrict the sale of loot box-employing games to children. Further afield, Belgium has also launched an investigation to try to determine if games with loot box mechanics represent gambling, and New Zealand has come forward to say loot boxes do not constitute gambling.

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