‘Loot box’ bills fail to advance

A quartet of bills that would have regulated potentially addictive “gambling” systems in video games died after failing to meet legislative deadlines.

Two House bills and one Senate bill relating to video games all failed to meet final deadlines since being introduced in January, while a second Senate bill was amended from its original purpose to a completely unrelated subject.

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The four bills originally would have regulated “loot boxes,” a controversial — and, some say, predatory — practice in video games wherein players can spend real money to purchase one or more randomized items in a system many compared to gambling.

One of the House bills — HB 2686, which would have prohibited the sale of video games containing loot boxes to people younger than 21 — failed to move past a single committee in the House, and was killed by the end of January.

A corresponding bill in the Senate, SB 3024, successfully crossed over into the House in early March, but likewise passed no committees after that.

The other House bill, HB 2727, would have required game publishers to disclose the probabilities for each random item received in loot boxes, as well as to display a label on a game’s packaging warning about the presence of in-game purchases. That bill crossed over into the Senate and stagnated, failing to pass any further committees.

Senate Bill 3025, meanwhile, originally was a companion bill to HB 2727. However, the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce amended the bill earlier this month to remove all aspects of its previous text and replace it with a requirement for franchisees to disclose if they are not participating in promotions of the franchise — for example, if a Hawaii location of a fast-food restaurant chain were not included in a nationally advertised deal.

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That bill was passed by all committees in both chambers and will face a final vote in the House.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.