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Legislation in Illinois and Wisconsin Targets Pokémon Go

8 Mar, 2017

By: Michael Popke
Littered Parks and Other Venues Led to Need for Lawmakers to 'Catch 'em All'

Sounds like Pikachu’s going to need a permit from now on.

Remember the Pokémon Go craze last summer? The location-based game encouraged fans of the augmented-reality app to get out and exercise, chasing Pokémon all over the place — including at sports venues and in parks.

In Milwaukee, Lake Park was overrun with visitors, who left behind “empty beers cans, trash piles, trampled turf and overflowing toilets,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And taxpayers were left to foot the bill for thousands of dollars.

That is why the Milwaukee County Board recently approved an ordinance that requires San Francisco-based Pokémon Go creator Niantec Inc. and similar companies to obtain a permit before incorporating augmented-reality characters into area parks.

“We’re prepared for all of them now,” County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, who wrote the proposal for the permitting process, told the Associated Press.

The new ordinance requires that game developers such as Niantic, apply for a permit like any other business or group that wants to host park events. The fees will range from $100 to $1,000, depending on how much of the park will be used and how many people are expected to be there, according to Wasserman, and the money will help pay for the park’s upkeep.

Lawmakers in other states are taking a stand against location-based augmented-reality, too. The Illinois Legislature is considering a bill that would require developers to remove sites from their games if and when they receive a request to do so. “Pidgey’s Law,” named after one of the Pokémon characters, is in response to heavy foot traffic last year at a suburban Chicago park with protected dunes.

“There have been national stories about Pokémon Go spots at places like the Holocaust Museum that were taken down very quickly,” State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who introduced the legislation, told the Chicago Sun-Times last year. “Rolling out Pokémon Go internationally was a huge undertaking done by humans, who make mistakes, and what we’re doing with this bill is attempting to create a process by which those errors could be corrected.”

But at least one lawmaker is concerned that Pokémon Go-related legislation sets a bad precedent. “If someone crashes their car while using [Google Maps], it’s not Google Maps’ responsibility to pay for the damages. That falls on the user,” Milwaukee County Supervisor Eddie Cullen said after voting against the measure. “If a Pokemon Go player litters or damages something in the parks, it should be the responsibility of the player, not the corporation to pay for damages.”

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