Popular Social Casino Constitutes Illegal Online Gambling in Washington

Casino News Daily
Popular Social Casino Constitutes Illegal Online Gambling in Washington

A US Court of Appeals judge ruled on Wednesday that Big Fish Casino constituted illegal online gambling under the Washington state gambling law. The recent court ruling could open Pandora’s box for the growing social casino sector, particularly in the US where online gambling is prohibited in most states.

Developed by Seattle-based casual gaming company Big Fish Games, Big Fish Casino offers free-to-play versions of popular casino games, including slots, roulette, and blackjack. Players can play these via virtual chips that have no actual monetary value. However, if users run out of chips, they can either wait until they are offered more free chips to play the games, or can purchase chips for real money.

Judge Milan D. Smith of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said on Wednesday that the virtual chips were a “thing of value” and their purchase actually represented illegal online gambling under state law.

The lawsuit was filed against Churchill Downs back in 2015 when the Kentucky-based casino operator was the owner of Big Fish Games. Churchill Downs bought the casual games studio a year earlier for $885 million. It announced last year that it would sell Big Fish Games to Australian gaming company Aristocrat Technologies for nearly $1 billion. The deal was closed earlier this year, as confirmed by the casino company.

The ruling could have a negative impact on the growing social casino market which was worth over $3 billion last year, as virtual currencies are widely popular in social casino games. The outcomes of previous lawsuits against representatives of the social casino sector had generally been favorable. However, Judge Smith’s ruling from Wednesday could complicate future lawsuits related to the nature of social casino games and whether these constitute online gambling.

Big Fish Casino’s Lawsuit in Greater Detail

In 2015, Cheryl Kater, a regular Big Fish Casino player, filed a lawsuit against the social casino’s parent company Churchill Downs, claiming that she had spent over $1,000 on virtual chips to be able to play. Her legal team also argued that virtual chips represented “a thing of value” under a provision in Washington’s gambling law.

[A]ny money or property, any token, object or article exchangeable for money or property, or any form of credit or promise, directly or indirectly, contemplating transfer of money or property or of any interest therein, or involving extension of a service, entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge.

Ms. Kater further pointed out in her legal complaint that the virtual chips could be cashed out by being sold for real money on secondary markets or being transferred to other users. However, that argument was rejected by the Court of Appeals as Big Fish Casino’s terms and conditions explicitly prohibited practices of this kind.

The post Popular Social Casino Constitutes Illegal Online Gambling in Washington appeared first on Casino News Daily.

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