Anti-Loot Box Legislation Attracts Bipartisan Support

Two Democratic Senators today announced support for Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-MO) anti-loot box legislation.

Two weeks ago, Senator Hawley became the second senator to voice his concern over loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions. However, unlike Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Hawley hopes to tackle the problem via legislation. His proposed legislation would ban loot boxes and pay-to-win microtransactions from all games aimed at children, and even games that a child might play even if they aren’t the target. At the time, it was unsure how much support the legislation would receive, but it now looks like this could become a bipartisan effort.

Democratic Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) both announced they’ll co-sponsor the bill with Hawley. The goal of the bill is to end a practice that other countries and health organizations have deemed unhealthy and manipulative.

“Today’s digital entertainment ecosystem is an online gauntlet for children,” Markey said in his statement. ”Inherently manipulative game features that take advantage of kids and turn play time into pay time should be out of bounds.”

“I’m proud to sponsor this bipartisan legislation to protect kids from predatory gaming apps and hold bad actors accountable for their reprehensible practices,” Blumenthal added. “Congress must send a clear warning to app developers and tech companies: Children are not cash cows to exploit for profit.”

Pay-to-win microtransactions and loot boxes have been a staple of games for years. However, it wasn’t until 2017s Star Wars Battlefront II that the practice came under intense scrutiny worldwide. Several countries have banned loot boxes, or are conducting studies into their effects.

To pass the legislation, Hawley needs support from at least 60 lawmakers to break a filibuster. It then needs at least 51 votes to pass the Senate. That, of course, assumes that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agrees to bring it up to a vote. From there, it would go to the Democratic-controlled House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decides whether it gets a vote. It it passes there, both legislative bodies must reconcile any differences between the passed legislation. Once that passes, it would then go to President Donald Trump’s desk for either a signature or veto. Expect the Entertainment Software Association to lobby hard against Sen. Hawley’s bill.

Sen. Hassan is approaching the situation differently by asking the FTC to investigate loot boxes. A workshop about the topic is set for August 2019.