The Washington state gaming industry is launching a new initiative to ensure that smartphone games remain exempt from the local gambling laws. The latest lobbying effort will be supported by the civic leaders in the state.
What is the lobby expected to do?
The new lobbying effort is being led by the Game on WA. It is trying to bring more attention to the smartphone gaming sector. The lobbying effort targets a federal court decision from last year that jeopardized the status of in-app purchases in smartphone games in the state. The organization, which counts several prominent tech leaders and former government officials as its members, is trying to persuade the Washington legislators and gambling commissions that gambling regulations do not apply to social games.
The gaming industry has burgeoned in the state in the last 10 years. Companies like Big Fish Games, Valve and Microsoft have enjoyed unprecedented success here because the Washington State Gambling Commission didn’t apply their regulations on these games. Game on WA suggests that the federal court led these games to a “legal limbo” in 2018.
The judge from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that a casino game from Big Fish will be counted as illegal gambling under the state law. Big Fish Casino provides games like roulettes, blackjack, and slots using virtual casino chips. Though the chips have no monetary value, the casino allows users to play only as long as they have chips. As soon as the chips run out, the users either have to buy more chips or wait until the game refreshes their quota. Some lawsuits are now challenging the legal status of these social games in the state.
How mobile gaming could change?
Casual games make big business for developers. According to JP Morgan, games of chance earned developers $3.8 billion in worldwide revenue in 2016. They expect the revenue to grow by 10% every year. JP Morgan is one of the parties that have filed a lawsuit in the state related to social games. Co-chair of Game on WA, Kristina Hudson said that the court’s decision may create a “geofence” in the state.
“With the legal status of online games in limbo the companies are likely going to protect themselves by geofencing Washington state, so our players will no longer have access to the games that they have been playing.”
She also said that this has caused uncertainty in the industry which is detrimental to their interests.