Game of War: Fire Age is Not Gambling, Says Federal Judge

Posted on: September 27, 2016, 07:22h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2016, 03:22h.

Game of War: Fire Age not gambling says judge
Game of War: Fire Age is not a gambling game in any sense of the word, rules a federal judge in Illinois. (Image: Machine Zone)

A lawsuit against Machine Zone, developers of the popular Game of War: Fire Age, was thrown out of court by a federal judge in Illinois late last week.

Judge Robert Dow rejected a claim that the popular smartphone game violates the Illinois Loss Recovery Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Game of War is a massive multi-player online game (MMO), in which players build and train armies and form alliances as they strive to prosper in an imaginary geopolitical landscape.

It’s free to play, but users are able to purchase “virtual gold” in order to aid their advancement in the game.

For example, $4.99 will buy you 1,200 pieces of the worthless digital currency, while $99.99 will get you 20,000 pieces. It also contains a virtual casino,” in which players can “wager” virtual currency, hoping to win useful minerals to aid their quest, such as wood, stone and more gold, all “virtual,” of course.

Plaintiff Mihajlo Ristic said he began playing Game of War in 2014. Within a six-month period he spent at least $50, he says, or “perhaps more than $500,” on these “wagers.”  Therefore, Machine Zone illegally operated a gambling device and engaged in unfair conduct by violating state gambling laws, according to Ristic.

Bizarre Illinois Gambling Statue Doesn’t Wash

This is not the first time Game of War has faced legal action. A civil lawsuit in Maryland last year accused the game of being an illegal “slot machine or device.” The judge in that case scoffed at the “hodgepodge of hollow claims” that lacked “allegations of real-world harms or injuries” and which had no claim to any form of compensation in “a real-world court.”

But Illinois has become a hotbed of bizarre gambling recovery claims over the past couple of years. The reason for this is the rediscovery of the aforementioned Loss Recovery Act, an antiquated claw-back statute

The law states that any Illinois gambler who loses $50 or more has the right to sue the winner to get the money back. Bizarrely, it also states that should the losing gambler not sue the winner within sixth months, then “any person” is permitted to sue the winner, for up to three times the amount.

It was under this legal premise that two mothers Kelly Sonnenberg and Judy Fahrner brought a case in August 2012 against Amaya, seeking to reclaim money lost by their sons and “other gamblers” on PokerStars and Full Tilt before they ceased US operations in 2011.

Yes, the moms were trying their luck. They were attempting to sue to reclaim the money of any gambler in Illinois who ever lost a penny at PokerStars or Full Tilt, in order to grossly enrich themselves.

Parallels to Amaya Case

Thankfully, they were laughed out of court. The judge made the obvious point that PokerStars et al were simply charging a rake, and therefore could not be perceived as a “winner,” or even as a “gambler.”

Judge Dow referred to the Amaya case in his dismissal of the claim against Game of War this week. Machine Zone is not a gambler, since no amount of Machine Zone’s earned money ever depended on the outcome of the game, he said.

Nor did the game violate gambling laws, or impose “a lack of meaningful choice or an unreasonable burden.” Neither did it cause significant, unavoidable harm.

In short, the biggest and, in fact, only “gamble” this plaintiff made was to file the case in the first place.