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Pokémon Go inspires proposed legislation

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, joined by members of the Illinois Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, the Loyola Dunes Restoration group, and the Pokémon Go community, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would protect parks and other properties from Pokémon Go traffic. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Illinois may soon be on track to passing its first legislation in response to Pokémon Go with a new bill introduced by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy.

Cassidy introduced “Pidgey’s Law” on Wednesday during a news conference at the Loyola Dunes Restoration Site. Named after one of the game’s bird Pokémon, the bill aims to crack down on location-based game developers to remove problematic gaming sites from their maps.

“There have been national stories about Pokémon Go spots at places like the Holocaust Museum that were taken down very quickly,” Cassidy said. “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.”

If passed, “Pidgey’s Law” would give game developers up to two days to remove a location-specific site from its game if that site’s property owner, manager or custodian requests its removal. After that, developers would be fined up to $100 each day until the stop is removed.

The bill is in response to a Pokéstop — real-life locations gamers can visit for in-game perks — that rests at the center of the dune restoration area, which is protected under state and federal law. The stop, based on an art installation that stood there a few years back, sometimes draws players off the designated path into areas where some endangered wildlife lives.

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State Rep. Kelly Cassidy introduces a bill that would give location-based game developers up to two days to remove a specific location from their game if the property’s owner requests a removal. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

The hundreds of Pokémon Go players who frequent the area each night have caused increased littering and vandalism as well as occasional trampling of the wildlife when rare Pokémon appear in the augmented reality of the game.

“It’s all well and good until somebody gets hurt, and this site has been damaged,” Cassidy said. “But folks have come together beautifully to undo the damage . . . That’s being a good neighbor, and that’s what we’re asking the [game’s developer’s] to be.”

Niantic, Pokémon Go’s developer, launched a system in late July for people to request the removal of certain Pokéstops they deem problematic after drawing criticism for Pokéstops located in sensitive areas such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum or the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Cassidy said a couple hundred requests to have the Loyola Dunes Pokéstop removed have been filed in the last month, including requests from her office, the Chicago Park District, members of the Loyola Dunes Restoration Group and concerned Pokémon Go players. But they say Niantic has yet to act on any of those requests.

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Phillip Davis, a member of the Loyola Dunes Restoration group, said a Pokémon Go location placed in the center of the restoration area has caused an increase in foot traffic that threatens endangered wildlife. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Phillip Davis, a member of the Loyola Dunes Restoration group who has filed several of those requests, said he is frustrated that he has not been able to talk to Niantic about the Pokéstop. But he is hopeful that the legislation could spark action.

“It’s hard to imagine that actual legislation like this won’t get the attention of people at Niantic and put them in a position to do something,” he said.

Niantic did not respond to requests for comment.