If you haven’t noticed, the latest digital craze is Pokémon Go, a mobile game that uses GPS-locating to permit players to wander around the real world to interact with the Pokémon characters and locations on their phone or tablet screen. Businesses are cashing in on its popularity in droves by offering discounts to players or capitalizing on nearby “Gyms” (a location where players digitally compete against one another) and “Pokéstops” (a location where a player can acquire in-game items in a scavenger hunt style process) that attract players to the area. This is just phase one according to John Hanke, CEO of Niantic (one of the game’s creators) who announced plans to begin offering sponsored locations within the game which will help companies drive business directly to a storefront or area, because a player must physically visit the area to interact with a Gym or Pokéstop.
Before your community jumps on the Pokémon Go train and tries to secure sponsored location status, consider some of the liabilities that may arise from participating in the game. First, refer to the news story out of O’Fallon, Missouri where four armed men used the “Lure Module” feature of the game to attract players to a specific Pokéstop and then mug them. If this Pokéstop was on your property, you most likely would not be liable for the actions of the third party (the muggers), but your community would face a lot of bad P.R. that may scare away potential renters and frighten current residents.
Additionally, becoming a sponsored location doesn’t necessarily equate as a great benefit in the Denver rental market. Most apartment complexes aren’t struggling to fill their units; so the additional attention from a Pokéstop will most likely materialize in the form of loitering youths and additional vehicle traffic from distracted drivers playing the game. A Pokémon Gym would be even more detrimental because these Gyms are places where players on different teams compete in a “King of the Hill” style contest. Since the players must be in the immediate area and are often in direct competition, squabbling, bickering, and physical altercations may occur. Because a sponsored location would likely be a public and distinguishable place (like your leasing office), it would be wise to completely avoid Pokémon Gym sponsorships.
There are benefits to associating your property with the game, like promoting a Pokéstop on property as an amenity. However, we suggest sticking to low-risk resident outreach activities like organizing a group walk around the neighborhood to hit up other Pokéstops and catch Pokémon; at least until Pokémon Go has been fully launched and the scope of the effects of the game can be clearly analyzed.