A slew of lawsuits have begun piling up against Washington State social gambling operators in the wake of a federal court ruling which found that Big Fish Casino which was previously owned by Churchill Downs violated Washington State gaming laws. All these copycat lawsuits hope to capitalize on the recent court ruling and state laws that govern and regulate online gambling.
As of Monday, Geekwire reports that four lawsuits had already been filed against four other social gaming operators namely High 5 Games, Playtika, DoubleDown Interactive and Huuge Games. Each of these operators offers a series of casino games like blackjack, slots, and roulette that use virtual chips. These chips have no monetary value but players must have them in order to play. Therefore, when players run out of the chips, they can either opt to wait until the game offers more free chips or buy a huge number of chips with real money and get back to playing.
All four suits further user similar language and arguments in their filings which also happen to be centre around the same arguments of the Big Fish Casino case. This takes advantage of a vague clause in Washington state law that backed the idea that the chips represent “something of value” even though they are not worth any money on their own.
“Double Down Casino games are illegal gambling games because they are online games at which players wager things of value (the chips) and by an element of chance (e.g., by spinning an online slot machine) are able to obtain additional entertainment and extend gameplay (by winning additional chips),” states one of the suits.
All these cases including the Big Fish casino case that preceded them are very likely to have major implications for the casual casino games market as a number of social casino gaming providers today depend on in-app purchases as revenue sources. The lawsuits represent an emerging backlash against this model. Already, online gambling lawsuits are becoming fairly common but the tide turned in favour of the petitioners and this opened the door for similar occurrences in the near future.
Playing It Safe
Again, following the Big Fish Casino ruling, PokerStars became one of the first social gambling operators to stop offering free play games in an effort adhere to the terms outlined by the March 28 Court of Appeals decision. According to the Washington State Gambling Commission press release, PokerStars opted out of the state’s online gambling industry. The gambling commission however assured the public that it had nothing to with this move by the online gaming operator:
“We are not a party to the civil court case, we did not testify in the case, and we did not order these sites to discontinue free online play for Washington residents. Customers with concerns should contact these websites directly,” reads the April 4 press release.
PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, released a statement shortly after saying that the company was “reviewing the rulings and ensuring that our activities are in line with state regulations.” The company also said that it would reinstate players to their status before the free game offerings were altered once the law is clarified.