Google and Apple Hit with Class Action for Gambling Apps
Tech giants Google and Apple face class-action lawsuits in several states for allegedly promoting illegal gambling by distributing gaming apps which are casino-style gambling apps. The apps allow users to make in-app purchases of app currency to be able to continue to play.
In Alabama, separate cases filed October 21 in federal court claim the tech giants have run afoul of state law in that the games offered through Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store are no different than games of chance allowing a player to wager and lose real money.
A complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Alabama by state resident Maria Valencia-Torres alleges both companies of allowing customers to purchase games that are “no more no less than casino-style slot machines, casino style table games, and other common gambling games”.
A similar complaint against the two tech giants was also filed in federal court in Mississippi by Edgar Smith, October 22, who claimed Google supports illegal gambling through apps. In addition to the complaint in Alabama, three other class- action complaints from state residents of Tennessee, Connecticut and Georgia were filed against Apple.
In Connecticut, Apple is allegedly accused of promoting, enabling, and profiting from the different types of gambling games it offers through the App Store by plaintiff Karen Workman who spent approximately $3,312.19 across numerous “gambling apps” in the six months before she filed the lawsuit.
Alabama lawsuits argue that even though customers cannot win actual cash, what makes the games supplied by Apple and Google illegal is the fact that users can win more playing time. “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 cases further argue that regardless of whether a player can win cash or more playing time, they’re spending money for a chance to win “something of value”, a concept not limited to gambling in the hopes of winning only cash under state law.
“…‘something of value’ specifically includes ‘extension of a service entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge.’ As a matter of law, paying money to get ‘coins’ one bets hoping to win more ‘coins’ so as to gain the ‘privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge’ is gambling a thing of value under Alabama law.”
Complaints further allege that Google and Apple are not just bystanders but active promoters of the apps and facilitators of the illegal gambling. According to the lawsuits, Apple and Google wield “dictatorial control” on the in-apps payment methods, on top of the selection process for download.
The series of class-action lawsuits come on the heels of the US Justice Department levying a landmark antitrust action against Google for its unlawfully monopolistic position as the effective “gatekeeper” to the internet, particularly when it comes to search and online advertising. Many already predict Apple will face similar legal action.
In a similar case, Aristocrat and Churchill Downs agreed to settle to the amount of $155 million two claims in Washington related to the social games provided by Big Fish Games.