Lawmakers: Those 'pay-to-play' video games are really just gambling for teens

Lawmakers: Those 'pay-to-play' video games are really just gambling for teens
Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 at 4:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers are hoping to crackdown on video games with rewards systems, saying they target and promote gambling to minors.

The discussion comes after the release of the highly controversial Star Wars Battlefront II, which is rated "T for Teens."

Players use real money for digital boxes called "loot crates" filled with mystery items.

Sometimes you get something good, but most times you don't. So the more money you spend, the better your chances.

Critics argue the "loot crates" are gambling, plain and simple.

"We've heard from a number of families who have come together saying they've been impacted -- one family in Kailua whose children had stolen credit cards from their parents in order to pay for content like this," said State Rep. Chris Lee.

Lee, along with State Rep. Sean Quinlan, add that these types of "pay-to-win" video games are traps and they believe more needs to be done to protect children who are not mature enough to handle the pressures of gambling.

"With the new Star Wars game, you can't play as the heroes right away. You can't be Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker until you play the game for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours, or use real money," Quinlan said.

Battlefront II has even caught the attention of government officials in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The backlash forced developer Electronic Arts to temporarily remove all "pay-to-play" transactions from the game.

The company insists the game doesn't have gambling, saying a player's success does not depend on what they buy.

But many gamers disagree.

"As a gamer, I'm just kind of getting sick of it and this has been the tipping point. More people are getting involved," said Jerome Koehler.

Lee and Quinlan say they're looking at legislation to prohibit gambling mechanisms in video games and the sale of these games to minors. They say they're even pushing the state attorney general to step in.

It's a move supported by some parents.

"We can't control it, so we do need help from regulations to help set boundaries when something is targeting, advertising, tempting kids to get involved in something that costs them money that they don't have," said Lisa Martin, a concerned parent.

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