Video Games

City Officials Want To Clamp Down on Dragon's Ascent, a Video Game That Pays Skillful Players

Mayor Muriel Bowser: "Immediate action is necessary to regulate these electronic devices before they infiltrate the city."

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Dragon's Ascent is a video game that rewards skillful players with cash. Regulators in D.C. and Virginia want to crack down on it, so they're moving to subject games of skill to the same sorts of rules that govern games of chance.

Hundreds of these machines have already appeared in stores and restaurants throughout Virginia, and the D.C. sports bar Penn Social wants to install the game too.

D.C. law defines gambling as "playing any game of chance for money or property." In a letter last October to the city's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, D.C. Deputy Attorney General Brian Flowers pointed out that Dragon's Ascent is not a gambling machine because it doesn't use a random-number generator or compensating algorithm to change the odds of winning. Players can cash out at any time and receive their refund from the establishment operator. It "is possible for a player to 'win' or make money every single time," Flowers added, "if the player is dedicated and patient enough."

Mayor Muriel Bowser is urging the D.C. Council to change the law so the city can do something about the game. "Immediate action is necessary to regulate these electronic devices before they infiltrate the city," Bowser said in a December letter to the council chairman, Phil Mendelson. Bowser fears that Dragon's Ascent and other games of skill may pop up at establishments that don't possess Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses, where the Council has no jurisdiction. Virginia has lost around $140 million in revenue thanks to unregulated games of skill, she warned.

For the sake of "immediate public safety concerns," Bowser intends to submit a permanent bill addressing the licensing, inspection, enforcement, and taxation of skill machines. The bill would build on a set of emergency measures enacted yesterday by the D.C. Council. Under yesterday's legislation, the games will be restricted to players over 18, and liquor-licensed establishments will have to apply for the right to install the machines.

"Right now, Dragon's Ascent is a legal game of skill," Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D–Ward 5) told The Washington Post. "So it's important for the consumer protections to be in place now rather than later."

Virginia legislators have also been looking for ways to tighten the government's controls on these games. Earlier this month, a bill was introduced in the Virginia Senate that would amend the state's definition of "gambling device." Currently, this refers to any machine or apparatus that uses "elements of chance" to determine whether to "eject something of value or determine the prize or other thing of value to which the player is entitled." Under the proposed legislation, machines "are no less gambling devices if they indicate beforehand the definite result of one or more operations but not all the operations. Nor are they any less a gambling device because, apart from their use or adaptability as such, they may also sell or deliver something of value on a basis other than chance."

Unregulated games of skill, Virginia legislators say, have lowered state lottery profits. Bowser's warnings about lost revenue suggest that she too is worried about the bottom line. Under all the fretful language about public health and order, these look like efforts to maximize the government's revenue streams.

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  1. 1. Virginia has lost around $140 million in revenue thanks to unregulated games of skill, she warned.
    2. Unregulated games of skill, Virginia legislators say, have lowered state lottery profits.

    And there you have it folks – – – – – –

    1. There you have it, at least here the dems are being honest that want you to hand your money over directly to the state. +1 bonus point for not mentioning “the children!”.

    2. Yup, the numbers game that used to get run in a lot of neighborhoods only became illegal once the state got into the lottery game. Those neighborhood numbers games had far better odds than the state run ones do, and the state doesn’t want the competition.

      I also think it’s a little sad that the legislature can just make up definitions for words. By definition, gambling is based on chance. Even some games with heavy skill elements, like poker, are still gambling because you don’t know what cards you’re going to get. If a game doesn’t involve chance, by definition it is not gambling.

      1. If a game doesn’t involve chance, by definition it is not gambling.
        How do you suppose betting on sports or other games of skill that other people are playing fit into that? Football certainly isn’t a game of chance, but I think it is generally accepted that betting on football is in fact gambling.
        Or I guess maybe “chance” really means “incomplete information”.

        1. In that case, the “game” you’re playing is the bet itself, not the game of football.

          Since I have no way of knowing how the football game will play out, betting on it is very much a game of chance. The guys playing the game of football are playing a game of skill.

          1. Yeah, that’s what I was getting at with the “incomplete information” thing.

        2. That’s why they use point spreads, so the game may be decided on skill, but the bet essentially comes down to a 50/50 chance

        3. >>Football certainly isn’t a game of chance

          the ball is oblong

          1. But is it made of leather, or foam?

            1. the new XFL should play w/Nerf

    3. Ejector Of Something Of Value was my username at a certain website.

      1. collectibledisneytapes.com?

  2. So, skeeball machines at places where they pay out ‘tickets’ that can be redeemed for prizes also need to be regulated as gambling devices?

    To whit:
    1. They are a game of skill.
    2. Skillful play can result in the player receiving “something of value” by exchanging tickets won for various goods on offer.

    There isn’t even a slippery slope here. That’s exactly the compelled logic if you made games of skill = ‘gambling’. You would also necessarily include various fairground games of skill with prizes.

    We’ve had games of skill available for well over 100 years without treating them as gambling. I suggest the bureaucrats in question look for other jobs – their current ones are clearly superfluous if they have the time to be panicked by this.

    1. So, skeeball machines at places where they pay out ‘tickets’ that can be redeemed for prizes also need to be regulated as gambling devices?

      It would seem that barbecue and speed eating contests would constitute gambling as well.

      1. And all those claw games
        And what the heck, any vending machine ever, since it might malfunction and NOT deliver a thing of value, so – – –

        1. Pot lucks are just asking to be banned.

      2. Speculating on the stock markets, bond markets, etc., is gambling as well!

    2. Regulating skeeball machines would destroy the New Jersey economy!

    3. We need to tackle these next. For the children of course.

  3. Is A game of skill like chess, or racket ball, or singles tennis, or heck Jeopardy, where the winning player is financially rewarded regulated under these gambling rules?

    1. If it was a chess game against a computer, probably, since there’s a random element to their decision-making algorithm.

      Humans never behave randomly.

      1. “Humans never behave randomly.”

        Is there any practical difference between randomness and unpredictability?

        1. If you throw a human in the air, it will land either face up, or face down. That’s randomness.

          When a human reacts as logic dictates they should, that’s unpredictability.

  4. Bowser should stick to kidnapping princesses

    1. You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen!

      1. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you!

        1. And running Nintendo of America. That’s right, Bowser is the CEO.

          1. That’s not in the movie!

            1. prepare to die.

              1. You mean, you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword, and we’ll try and kill each other like civilized people?

                1. you have a great gift for rhyme

                  1. Inconceivable!

                    1. He clearly said, “to blave”

  5. It might be a game of skill, but the vendor determines the difficulty level, and can change it without notice.

    There should be some mechanism of oversight or transparency. A key benefit of gaming commissions is that they supposedly ensure that the games are “fair.”

    But I agree, it’s bullshit to conflate the public interest with loss of tax revenue.

  6. Virginia has lost around $140 million in revenue thanks to unregulated games of skill, she warned.

    “Why, I’ll bet it’s more like $*180* million!”

  7. “a bill was introduced in the Virginia Senate that would amend the state’s definition of “gambling device.” Currently, this refers to any machine or apparatus that uses “elements of chance” to determine whether to “eject something of value or determine the prize or other thing of value to which the player is entitled.”

    By their logic, all video games are gambling because you receive rewards in game, there are elements of chance along with skill (part of the skill is dealing with those elements of chance) and the rewards you acquire are something of value that you can sell to others or buy with real money as well.

  8. I would love to hear what sort of “immediate public safety concerns” she thinks are caused by a fucking game. This reads like a naked cash grab with her statements. Is the legislature able to make laws basically stating “we’re going to tax you in particular because you have money we want”? Seems like the sort of thing that would be unconstitutional

    1. what sort of “immediate public safety concerns” she thinks are caused by a fucking game.

      Gatherings of undesirable types, probably. You know, like those that hang out at stores and restaurants throughout Virginia.

  9. Funny, I used to think of most “games of skill” as “work”.

    But I guess the state of Virginia knows better.

    1. Poor Mrs. Colossal Douchebag.

  10. Bowser trying to regulate video games. It’s just another example of how corporations like Nintendo use the power of regulation to suppress competition.

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  13. One could argue that it is a matter of chance whether a player has the aptitude to become a winning player.

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