Federal Lawsuits Claim Apple, Google Profit from Social Gaming Apps Illegal in Alabama

Posted on: October 22, 2020, 11:58h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2020, 10:32h.

Two lawsuits were filed in an Alabama federal court Wednesday against Google and Apple. The matters claim the tech giants allow residents in the southern state to download apps and gamble illegally.

social casino lawsuit
Two cases were filed in Alabama this week against Google and Apple, claiming the tech companies profit from illegal gambling apps available on their platforms. (Image: Sean Prior/123RF.com)

The plaintiffs want a judge to grant class-action status to the cases, which would allow others with similar claims to join the suits. They also want a refund of “all money paid through the illegal gambling games” the suits list, as well as “a reasonable sum of money” for bringing the case to court.

Maria Valencia-Torres, the named plaintiff in the Google suit, claims she spent more than $165 to play Slotomania for over half a year. Teresa Larsen, the plaintiff in the Apple case, downloaded Jackpot Party and Goldfish Casino Slots. Over a six-month span, she spent more than $250 to play the games.

The same lawyer, John E. Norris, filed the cases in Alabama’s Northern District Federal Court.

Both suits, written in nearly identical language with a few exceptions, list 200 examples of the social gaming apps available on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS platforms. They include various slot machine and card games, such as Slotomania, Big Fish, and Zynga Poker.

While players cannot win actual cash in these games, they can win something of value – more playing time – the cases claim. Players initially receive a certain amount of coins they use to play. If they run out of coins, players can then pay cash to buy more coins and continue playing.

“Alabama’s gambling statutes make clear that paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time constitutes illegal gambling under Alabama law,” the complaints state.

Google, Apple Cases Similar to Big Fish Suit

This is not the first time a class-action suit has been filed regarding social casino type games.

Just last month, Big Fish Games announced it was laying off 250 employees after a $155 million class-action settlement was approved by a federal judge.

The arguments made in that case against Big Fish were similar to the ones in these cases. The Big Fish suit was first filed in 2015. While a federal district judge threw it out, the plaintiffs won on appeal, leading to the settlement that will be paid by current owner Aristocrat Technologies and Churchill Downs Inc., which sold Big Fish to Aristocrat.

Tech Companies Get Cut from Social Gaming Apps

A key difference between the Big Fish suit and the ones filed this week is that the Alabama cases are going after the platform providers.

While neither Google nor Apple develops the games available on their app stores, the agreements with those developers allow them to get a 30 percent cut on revenues.

Many apps, including those that are the subject of this lawsuit, are initially free to download. But they contain in-app purchases that a customer can choose to purchase inside the app,” the Google lawsuit states. “Google provides the payment interface for all such purchases and, as noted, takes a hefty percentage of the money for itself.”

Because of that cut, the plaintiffs say both tech companies profit off illegal gaming activities. In addition, the lawsuit state both companies have the ability to use geofencing technology to keep such games from being accessed where gambling is illegal.

“It has the ability with existing technology it currently uses to prevent the games at issue here from being played in this state,” the lawsuits claim.

Both lawsuits give just one side of the case. Neither Google nor Apple could be reached for comment on the cases.