Senators Hawley, Markey, and Blumenthal File Legislation to Stop Manipulative Video Game Practices Aimed at Children

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Today Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), along with Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), filed bipartisan legislation banning the exploitation of children through “pay-to-win” and “loot box” monetization practices by the video game industry. Senator Hawley announced the legislation earlier this month.

Senator Hawley said, “Only the addiction economy could produce a business model that relies on placing a casino in the hands of every child in America with the goal of getting them desperately hooked. I’m proud to introduce this landmark, bipartisan legislation to end to these exploitative practices.”

Senator Markey said, “Today’s digital entertainment ecosystem is an online gauntlet for children. 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 partner with Senator Hawley and Senator Blumenthal on this important legislation because corporate profits should never come before children’s well-being.”

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

FAQ about the legislation can be accessed here.

Bill text can be accessed here.

Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense, said, “Tricking kids into spending money while they play games is unacceptable and should be illegal. Common Sense commends Senator Hawley for standing up to these companies that are profiting off the exploitation of kids. Parents are frustrated by these practices and industry leaders should be supporting the creation of legislation and encourage their colleagues to design products that actually benefit the well-being of kids and families.”

Josh Golin, Executive Director of Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, said, “It is beyond unfair for developers to rig their games to manipulate children into making purchases themselves or nagging their parents to do so. Games that require additional payments to advance take advantage of children’s natural inclination to master new skills and compete. We commend Senators Hawley, Markey, and Blumenthal for introducing this important legislation to protect children from commercial exploitation.”

Tim Winter, President of the Parents Television Council, said, “We applaud Sen. Josh Hawley for his work to address a growing concern related to children and video games: Kids are getting involved in pay-to-win schemes and other in-game micro-transactions (often referred to as ‘loot boxes’) found within the games. This only encourages costly, compulsive and unhealthy behavior in children, and it creates an unforeseen financial risk for parents. It is wrong for game developers to target impressionable children in this manner. We thank Senator Hawley – and Senators Blumenthal and Markey – for this solidly bipartisan effort to help families.”

Focus on the Family said, “Focus on the Family supports legislative efforts at the federal level that seek to protect impressionable children from the dangers of online gaming, and specifically those games that utilize ‘pay-to-win’ and ‘loot box’ monetization schemes. These dangerous, gambling-like attributes are psychologically manipulative and may cause unsophisticated users such as children to become addicted. Several nations have already taken steps to regulate or prohibit the practice. It is time that we address this issue as well. We applaud the leadership of Senator Josh Hawley and his co-sponsors for introducing a bill that addresses this problem on behalf of America’s families.”