Big Fish Casino Constitutes Illegal Online Gambling, Rules Federal Judge
Posted on: March 29, 2018, 01:00h.
Last updated on: March 29, 2018, 11:24h.
In what could prove to be a landmark decision with troubling connotations for the social games industry, a federal judge in Washington state has ruled that social casino app Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal online gambling.
Judge Milan D. Smith of the Ninth Circuit US Court of appeals said this week that the virtual play chips used in Big Fish’s Casino games can be considered as “something of value,” despite a lack of direct monetary worth, which means they can be classed as a gambling “stake” under state law.
Washington state defines gambling as “risking something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the person’s control or influence to receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
Ramification for Gamification
“Despite collecting millions in revenue, Churchill Downs, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, purports to be shocked — shocked! — to find that Big Fish Casino could constitute illegal gambling. We are not,” wrote Smith in his ruling.
The Kentucky casino and racetrack operator Churchill Downs Inc bought Seattle-based Big Fish three years ago for $885 million. In 2015 the company was sued by one of its former players, Cheryl Kater, who claimed to have spent more than $1,000 on virtual chips at Big Fish Casino.
She claimed that the games violated several Washington state statutes, including the Recovery of Money Lost at Gambling Act (RMLGA) and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
In 2016, a U.S. District Court Judge in Seattle tossed the case, as judges have done with similar cases in other states. Smith’s surprise judgement this week reverses that ruling.
It’s a decision that could have legal ramifications not just for social casinos but for all games that employ purchasable in-game virtual items and offer chance-based rewards.
Right to Appeal
“Without virtual chips, a user is unable to play Big Fish Casino’s various games,” reasoned the judge. “Thus, if a user runs out of virtual chips and wants to continue playing Big Fish Casino, she must buy more chips to have ‘the privilege of playing the game.’
“Likewise, if a user wins chips, the user wins the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino without charge. In sum, these virtual chips extend the privilege of playing Big Fish Casino.”
“We therefore reverse the district court and hold that because Big Fish Casino’s virtual chips are a ‘thing of value,’ Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal gambling under Washington law.”
While Churchill Downs has not officially commented on the ruling, it has recourse to appeal and is likely to do so.
Judge Smith dismissed another claim by the plaintiff that players are able to “cash out” the virtual chips and sell them for real money by transferring them to third parties.
Smith noted that these transactions are a violation of Big Fish’s terms and conditions.
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Last Comments ( 11 )
I just saw this. I never received anything from spending thousands and thousands of dollars playing Big Fish and Big and Fish Casino.
I got a post card for the lawsuit I send back in but I never heard nothing from it and never got anything I lost thousands beyond thousand dollar
I signed up for the lawsuit for big fish casino I lost many many dollars, on double payments that were added to my account through Apple, my email address is . How do I make sure I’m included in this lawsuit thank you very much, this game ruined my relationship with my fiancé, depression and left my bank account broke
This game ruined me financially, ended my marriage, and cost me soo much more in stress. The addictive consequences are more than this post explains. BFC has leaders that always have billions in chips, but yet say I spend $50 to get 30 million chips, if a good sale on... I never can get ahead and once in a few weeks they will let you win, but once you do get a decent win, all losses nonstop after but those leaders always have billions of chips no matter what. At least in a real casino you can cash out winnings. There is much more BFC is doing wrong and hope they go under.
We all know that going to a real casino is addicting, right? Than why on earth would big fish and other company make a fake casino with the chance of us buying fake chips?. They knew it was gonna be addicting adding real money to it makes a for sure we are gonna pay for a chance to hit it big.even in a fake casino.
I have several unauthorized charges equaling thousands of dollars charged to my credit card. I have disputed these charges through Navy Federal.
I have spent thousands and thousands of real money and can't even win fake coins I'm Old and feel taken advantage of ALL MY HISTORY IS IN MY GOOGLE PLAY ACCOUNT, I could buy a house. I try to get reimbursed in game coins LOL but I had to put a lean on my house. I found out they have a divice people use to hack. I have been taken bad. .I'm waiting a reply from VIP
Ive spent $50,£00 at least over last 2.5 Years and it's got me no where. " privilege to play" an hour or so. Never hit big in all that time or spending all that money. The judge in Washington is entirely correct. It is a scam playing big fish.
I agree - I also have played and paid for chips. More than I should have. Like all gambling it’s addictive. They also have clubs with tournaments where you have to contribute to the club so the club can have more members. Insidious!
If they take real money for virtual money so people can continue to play, I agree with that ruling in that it makes those virtual chips a thing of monetary value. It makes sense and this should hold true in any state in the United States.
They need to investicate slots grape online free casino that operates similar to huuge