Google and Apple Face Lawsuits for Illegal Gambling
Both Google and Apple are involved in federal lawsuits in Alabama for allegedly allowing players to download apps and gamble.
Downloading an app is a simple process. We do it all the time to play games, listen to music, message friends, etc. In Alabama, two individuals are currently suing both Google and Apple, claiming the app stores of the tech giants allowed them to download gambling apps and wager illegally.
Where’s My Refund?
The plaintiffs in the case want to see the judge provide class-action status to each case. This status would allow other people to become involved if they have a similar claim. The plaintiffs also want to be given a refund of the money they paid to play the illegal gambling games, plus a sum of money for taking the case to a federal court.
In the Google suit, Maria Valencia-Torres claims she spent over $165 to play for more than six months via the app Slotmania. In the Apple suit, Teresa Larsen, said she was able to spend over $250 playing with the Goldfish Casino Slots and Jackpot Party apps. She accessed the apps for six months.
John E. Norris is the legal council serving in both cases. He filed the lawsuits in the Northern District Federal Court of Alabama. Each suit is written very similarly and only has a few differences. The lawsuits list around 200 examples of social gaming apps that are on offer in the Apple and Google Play Store. These apps include card games and slots.
The plaintiffs claim they do not win actual cash in the games but something of value, which is more playing time. Players are given a certain amount of coins upon sign up and then when they run out of coins, can purchase more with real cash.
The claims say that the gambling statutes in Alabama make it clear that paying any amount of money in a game for a chance to win more playing time is considered illegal gambling.
Not the First Time
The two lawsuits against Google and Apple are not the first to go after social casino gaming apps. In September, Big Fish Games was forced to lay off 250 individuals after it was faced with a $155 million class-action settlement. A federal judge approved this suit.
The suit was filed back in 2015 and was initially thrown out by a federal district judge. However, an appeal was won by the plaintiffs and it led to a settlement. The money will be paid by Aristocrat Technologies and Churchill Downs Inc., the new owners of Big Fish.
However, with these new suits filed in Alabama, it is not the provider that is named as the defendant. It is the platform providers. Google and Apple provide the apps via their platforms and they earn a percentage of revenues from the apps.
The suits point out that many apps, including the ones listed in the lawsuit, are free to download, but they offer in-app purchasing. Google sets up the payment interface for the app and then takes a percentage of the money. Sources say that the amount earned by the platforms is around 30% or so.
Because of the percentage they earn, the plaintiffs feel the tech companies are profiting from illegal gaming activities. The suit also points out that the tech providers can use geolocation technology to keep players from accessing the games if they live in an area where gambling is considered illegal.
Google and Apple have yet to respond to this recent lawsuit. It will be interesting to see how they respond and what their argument will be as to why they should be able to provide these games options to Android and iOS users.