Washington Judge Rules Social Casino As Illegal Online Gambling
A judge in the US Court of Appeals has ruled that the popular social casino Big Fish Casino can be considered as an illegal online gambling venture. This ruling comes as a surprise since social casinos usually do not accept real money bets and have been operating for a number of years. Social casinos tend to rely on tokens or chips as a means of betting and don’t accept real money on wagers.
Social casinos work by offering free-to-play versions of the games found in normal online casinos. Popular games such as online slots, blackjack and roulette are offered to players to have fun and enjoy a social online casino experience. Social casinos like Big Fish casino provide visitors with a stash of virtual chips that they then use to play these games. These chips have zero value and cannot be used outside of the site. However, if a player runs out of chips, they can either opt to buy more for real money or just wait for new chips to be given to them.
However, Judge Milan D. Smith, who is on the Ninth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals determined that these chips are “a thing of value.” The ruling made Big Fish Casino an illegal online gambling website under Washington state law.
This ruling stems from a 2015 lawsuit in which a Big Fish Casino player claimed that she spent around $1,000 buying virtual chips. Her team put forward the argument that the chips were “a thing of value” under a provision in Washington’s gambling laws. They also initially pointed out that these chips could be technically cashed out by using secondary markets. Players could sell them on other sites and transfer the chips to other players.
Big Fish Casino
Social Casinos Now Under Threat After Court Ruling
This new ruling is a legal hot potato for Aristocrat Technologies, the current owners of Big Fish Casino. The original lawsuit was filed against Big Fish when Churchill Downs, a Kentucky-based casino operator, was the owner. Churchill Downs succeeded in selling Big Fish to Aristocrat for around $1 billion in 2017, with the deal getting closed earlier this year.
The ruling goes beyond that of the lawsuit itself. The social casino market is growing and is now estimated to be around $3 billion. The wording of the ruling means that it will also affect virtual currencies, which are very popular in the social casino platforms.
The negative result of the ruling also comes as a surprise. As a rule, previous lawsuits against social casino companies have been in favor of the operators. However, this ruling may make future social casino lawsuits much more complicated.