Milwaukee to 'Pokemon' monsters: Get a permit to enter parks

February 18, 2017 by Ivan Moreno

"Pokemon Go" monsters can roam virtually wherever they please, but they'll need a permit to get into Milwaukee County parks.

At the height of the game's popularity last summer, the large crowds it attracted to one Milwaukee park left county officials at a loss for how to deal with the sudden influx of players and the trash they left behind. With more augmented-reality games in development, the permitting process Milwaukee County set up puts it at the forefront of an emerging challenge for government officials who want to regulate them.

"We're prepared for all of them now," said County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, who wrote the proposal setting up a permitting process that County Executive Chris Abele signed on Feb. 10.

Other places where officials are looking at how to handle such games include Illinois, where lawmakers are considering requiring companies to remove sites from games when they receive a request to do so. The bill pending in the Illinois Legislature is a response to heavy foot-traffic last year at a suburban Chicago park with protected dunes.

Kate Edwards, the executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said in an email that local and state regulations haven't been on developers' radars because there haven't been any "that specifically affect game content or design."

Most people associate augmented-reality smartphone apps with "Pokemon Go," which allows players to catch monsters in the real world when they appear on their phones. But the number of games is growing. Other apps allow people to blast zombies on streets, race cars around the office, and aim basketballs at virtual hoops anywhere.

Edwards warned that "legislation and regulation at this early stage of an emerging technology" can stifle its growth.

But Wasserman said something needed to be done after months "of basically absolute hell" at a Milwaukee park along Lake Michigan. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of players came to Lake Park at all hours of the day, he said, leading to traffic congestion, overtime for sheriff's deputies providing security, overflowing bathrooms and so much trash that the county had minimum-security inmates help clean up.

The new ordinance requires that game developers such as Niantic, the San Francisco-based creator of "Pokemon Go," get a permit like any other business or group that wants to host park events. The fees will be on a sliding-scale—anywhere from $100 to $1,000, depending on how much of the park will be used and how many people are expected to be there, Wasserman said. The money will help with the park's upkeep, he said, and the permits will help the county prepare for the volume of people.

Wasserman said the county could pursue legal action if a company doesn't comply with a permit.

Niantic declined a request for comment.

Eddie Cullen, a county supervisor who voted against the measure, said officials should be encouraging, not restricting the public's use of the parks and that people should be responsible for their behavior.

"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," he said. "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."

Explore further: Toronto wants Pokemon Go sites moved from ferry area

Related Stories

Toronto wants Pokemon Go sites moved from ferry area

August 3, 2016

Toronto city officials are asking the developers of the popular mobile game Pokemon Go to remove locations from the city's downtown ferry terminal that has been overwhelmed by thousands of players.

China puts up Stop sign for Pokemon Go

January 12, 2017

China will not allow its mammoth mobile online population to play Pokemon Go or other augmented-reality games until it completes a review of potential security risks, a Chinese digital publishing group said.

Pokemon doughnuts, exercise classes tap game's popularity.

August 26, 2016

Weeks into the "Pokemon Go" craze, demand remains strong for "Poke Ball"-shaped treats made by a high-end doughnut company, one of many businesses and organizations coming up with creative ways to lure players in their search ...

Recommended for you

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Probiotic bacteria evolve inside mice's GI tracts

March 26, 2019

Probiotics—which are living bacteria taken to promote digestive health—can evolve once inside the body and have the potential to become less effective and sometimes even harmful, according to a new study from Washington ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.