A newly formed coalition of civic leaders, industry experts and tech executives in Washington, dubbed Game On WA, is leading an effort to ensure the state doesn’t restrict access to so-called social games, which are played statewide by millions and support thousands of local jobs, according to the coalition.
The fear of restrictions or bans on social games ― such as Pokémon Go, Candy Crush and Slotomania ― stems from the Washington State Gambling Commission’s refusal in 2018 to issue guidance establishing that social games are not a form of illegal gambling. The Game On WA coalition says some 23,000 people are employed by the social games industry in Washington, jobs that could be on the line if the WSGC’s failure to act is not corrected.
Paul Mathews, founder and president of social-games company Playstudios Inc., said in an opinion piece written for GeekWire in October that concerns over social games being a form of gambling stem from the fact that players can win “non-redeemable tokens or credits,” which he describes as a “flawed premise” that “grossly misrepresents social games.” Social games are a form of multiplayer online entertainment that allow or require interaction among participants.
“A potential misinterpretation of Washington state’s gambling statute by a federal court could mean Washington residents will lose access to their favorite apps,” warns Michael Schutzler, the chief executive officer of the Washington Technology Industry Association and the Game On WA co-chair.
The coalition also is led by former Washington Gov. Gary Locke and Kristina Hudson, executive director of OneRedmond, a public/private economic-development partnership in Redmond. The group seeks to educate the public and lawmakers about the value of the social games industry and to convince the state Legislature to “affirm that social games are a form of entertainment, and not ‘illegal gambling,’” a press release issued by Game On WA states.
“Our state is a thriving epicenter for the video and social games industry,” Hudson says. “The coalition’s mission is to ensure our local businesses have a predictable and stable place to flourish. If no action is taken, this uncertainty could force social game companies to set up shop elsewhere ― a consequence that could have a ripple effect on other emerging industries and set a harmful precedent.”