Apple slapped with class action suit over gambling apps

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2021
A class action lawsuit filed on Tuesday targets Apple for hosting and profiting from casino-style apps through the App Store, specifically titles developed by Zynga.

Zynga


Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Columbia, the suit takes issue with free-to-play games that offer micro-transactions, or in-app purchases, for digital currency or other forms of digital goods.

Plaintiffs name "Zynga Casino Apps" as violating a number of state statutes related to gambling, saying Apple is culpable in the scheme by providing iOS development tools, hosting the titles on the App Store and profiting from their sale. As the sole administrator of the App Store, Apple allegedly "permits and facilitates illegal gambling by operating as an unlicensed casino," allowing users to buy "coins" or "chips" for use in Las Vegas-style games like blackjack, roulette, poker, keno, bingo, and other card and gambling games.

Most games mentioned in the suit present a limited number of chips to start, but users must purchase additional virtual funds once that pot is exhausted. The consumer will ultimately run out of coins or chips and "will be prompted to use real money to purchase additional coins or chips for the chance to continue playing the game," the suit alleges.

Importantly, according to plaintiffs, users are unable to collect actual cash in the casino games, but they do have the ability to win and therefore acquire more playing time. This system -- paying money for a chance to win more playing time -- allegedly violates anti-gambling laws in the 25 states at issue in the case.

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia are named in the suit.

Causes of action include violation of the Civil Remedy Statutes for Recovery of Gambling Losses and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs seek an injunction, damages, restitution, and legal fees.

The suit is nearly identical to a case filed in October that claims gambling apps violate state laws by prompting users to pay real money to acquire more playing time. A more recent complaint, filed in January, takes issue with the addictive nature of casino-style games.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Who’s spouse racked up a hefty bill?

    Yet another bogus lawsuit, they basically pointed out the difference between a Casino and the games, which will be their downfall.

    A casino you exchange cash for chips, but you can also exchange those chips back for cash. These games utilize the pay to play structure. A good majority of games use this structure and because of that, this suit holds no merit. The people who play, are literally paying to kill time. 

    If someone could exchange their “winnings” for a monetary value then I could see this going someplace. 
    edited February 2021 fred1watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Does this product already exist on the web? Could users access this product today via Safari on iOS?

    Is this product available on any PWA like Stadia? Would the plaintiffs then also sue the PWA providers?

    Despite the previous poster saying this lawsuit bogus, and I see his point, I can also see the plaintiff's point that Apple is taking a percentage of the income. Gambling is entertainment, and this app is entertainment, and as it works now, the app rewards you with more entertainment for your money. Hence Apple is taking a share in the winnings of a gambling/entertainment enterprise. I see that side too.

    I think the obvious solution is that Apple will simply remove these apps from their store.

    Here's what the App Store Guidelines say about gambling:
    • 5.3 Gaming, Gambling, and Lotteries
    Gambling, gaming, and lotteries can be tricky to manage and tend to be one of the most regulated offerings on the App Store. Only include this functionality if you’ve fully vetted your legal obligations everywhere you make your app available and are prepared for extra time during the review process. Some things to keep in mind:
    • 5.3.1 Sweepstakes and contests must be sponsored by the developer of the app.
    • 5.3.2 Official rules for sweepstakes, contests, and raffles must be presented in the app and make clear that Apple is not a sponsor or involved in the activity in any manner.
    • 5.3.3 Apps may not use in-app purchase to purchase credit or currency for use in conjunction with real money gaming of any kind, and may not enable people to purchase lottery or raffle tickets or initiate fund transfers in the app.
    • 5.3.4 Apps that offer real money gaming (e.g. sports betting, poker, casino games, horse racing) or lotteries must have necessary licensing and permissions in the locations where the App is used, must be geo-restricted to those locations, and must be free on the App Store. Illegal gambling aids, including card counters, are not permitted on the App Store. Lottery apps must have consideration, chance, and a prize.

    I think the solution here will involve Apple modifying section 5.3.3 to say the following. Otherwise there will be a lot of bad press for Apple, especially if the plaintiff loses the case above.

    • 5.3.3 Apps may not use in-app purchase to purchase credit or currency for use in conjunction with real money gaming of any kind, and may not enable people to purchase lottery or raffle tickets or initiate fund transfers in the app, and may not permit a player's winnings to enable more playtime.
    • Reply 3 of 17
      fred1fred1 Posts: 935member
      Then I guess I’ll start a class action suit against Apple for having apps that let you invest in the stock market. What’s the difference?
    • Reply 4 of 17
      jimh2jimh2 Posts: 399member
      The fact they are casino style games is the thread they are hanging on. It is going to break because  there are plenty of other games that allow you to pay to keep playing. 

      In the real world video games and pinball machines allow you to pay more to get get extra lives and/or extend play time. Even a self service car wash allows you to extend time. 
      watto_cobra
    • Reply 5 of 17
      DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,988member
      Didn't Google just add a bunch of actual casino gambling apps to their store? Oh yeah;
      https://www.macobserver.com/analysis/google-play-store-allows-licensed-gambling-apps/
      So they are suing Apple for things that require tortured logic to construe as "gambling". Meanwhile Google put flat out casinos that make no bones about it being gambling and they get a pass.


      watto_cobra
    • Reply 6 of 17
      DAalseth said:
      Didn't Google just add a bunch of actual casino gambling apps to their store? Oh yeah;
      https://www.macobserver.com/analysis/google-play-store-allows-licensed-gambling-apps/
      So they are suing Apple for things that require tortured logic to construe as "gambling". Meanwhile Google put flat out casinos that make no bones about it being gambling and they get a pass.
      Wow, what an observant and pertinent point. I wonder if Sweeney is behind this lawsuit too, because of its apparent similar hypocrisy? 
      edited February 2021 watto_cobra
    • Reply 7 of 17
      Can we just get past the ghosts of our Puritan roots and legalize gambling already? Legalized online poker & sports betting is S-L-O-W-L-Y making its way from state to state. At the current molasses-in-the-Feb-2021-artic-blast pace it'll be the next century before a full slate of casino games are available online. Get it out of the shadows of offshore sites and under regulation.
      watto_cobra
    • Reply 8 of 17
      I read through about 12 of the 25 laws cited below in the lawsuit. I never saw anything that said the law prohibits "pay for a chance to play" apps. However I did sometimes see restrictions on "lotteries" that said there had to be "no purchase required." I think we've all seen such rules that said "no purchase required" and I presume this is the reason why. Now I've never used a gambling app, including Zynga, but they probably constitute "lotteries" rather than "betting" which is distinguished differently in many state laws. In that case perhaps the requirement to have "no purchase required" does indeed apply to them, and both the apps and Apple are indeed violating the law. I can see that case being in line with state law.
      Paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time violates the anti-gambling laws of the twenty-five states
         that are at issue in this case. 
      See
      Ala. Code § 13A-12-20 (Alabama);
      Ark. Code Ann. § 16-118-103 (Arkansas);
      Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-278a (Connecticut); 
      OCGA § 16-12-20 (Georgia);
      720 ILCS 5/28-1 (Illinois);
      IC §35-45-5-1 (Indiana);
      KRS 528.101 
      (Kansas);
      Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 137, § 1 (Massachusetts);
      MN ST § 609.75 (Minnesota);
      MS ST § 
      87-1-5 (Mississippi);
      Mo. Rev. Stat. § 572.010 (Missouri);
      MT Code § 23-5-112(14) (Montana); 
       
      N.H. Rev. Stat. § 647.2 (New Hampshire); 
      N.J. Stat. § 
      2C:37-1 (New Jersey);
      N.M. Stat. § 30-19-1 (New Mexico);
      N.Y. Penal L. 225.00 (New York);
      Ohio Rev. Code § 2915.01 (Ohio);
      Or. Rev. 
      Stat. § 167.117 (Oregon);
      S.C. Code § 32-1-10 (South Carolina);
      S.D. Codified Laws § 22-25A 
      (South Dakota);
      Tenn. Code § 39-17-501 (Tennessee);
      13 V.S.A. § 2141 (Vermont);
      Va. Code § 
      18.2-325 (Virginia);
      Wash. Rev. Code § 9.46.010 (Washington);
      W. Va. Code §61-10-5 (West 
      Virginia)
    • Reply 9 of 17
      dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
      Can we just get past the ghosts of our Puritan roots and legalize gambling already? Legalized online poker & sports betting is S-L-O-W-L-Y making its way from state to state. At the current molasses-in-the-Feb-2021-artic-blast pace it'll be the next century before a full slate of casino games are available online. Get it out of the shadows of offshore sites and under regulation.
      You need to do some learning about the historic and ongoing systemic abuse of human lives by way of the gambling business.

      This isn’t about Puritanism. This is about human decency and protecting society from abuse/exploitation.

      It’s about an industry that exploits and abuses human psychology, on purpose, for profit. The gaming industry works to make their products more addictive and they even have names for their most profitable targets: “whales”.

      It’s fundamentally sociopathic.

      But hey, keep abusing the notion of freedom by defending greed...
    • Reply 10 of 17
      Can we just get past the ghosts of our Puritan roots and legalize gambling already? Legalized online poker & sports betting is S-L-O-W-L-Y making its way from state to state. At the current molasses-in-the-Feb-2021-artic-blast pace it'll be the next century before a full slate of casino games are available online. Get it out of the shadows of offshore sites and under regulation.
      Are you advocating for online gambling legalization only, or for all forms of gambling to be legalized? Are you advocating it for all US states or just certain ones? Are you aware that two states prohibit all forms of gambling (Hawaii and Utah)? Are you aware that Nevada prohibits lotteries? Do you consider Nevada to be a Puritan state?

      Do you want to take away the rights of US states to prohibit gambling? Do you want to take away the rights of states to pass commerce laws? Do you realize that this would require a change to the US constitution? Do you have a proposed constitutional amendment that you would like to share with us?

      Did you notice that I didn't make any argument, rather I just asked you questions to clarify the ambiguities in your arguments?

      If gambling was completely legal to the full extent of your dreams, do you think that would make Americans stop gambling on offshore sites? Is that the reason you want it legalized, so it can be regulated? How is that even logical since offshore sites can never be regulated and you are not calling for such sites to be illegal in the US?
    • Reply 11 of 17
      It’s an addiction. I don’t think banning Apps or suing Apple is the answer because it doesn’t address the addiction, it enables it, it makes it someone else’s fault. 
      I do believe that companies like Big Fish who used to have a simulated gambling app where you used real money to buy coins was taking advantage of some sick people. They got sued, but in the end, it was the lawyers who got most of the money in their settlement and not the people who spent hundreds of thousands on the game.
      Those people are still addicts, and they got some of their money back. Do you think they’re going to seek treatment? I don’t. 
      DAalsethwatto_cobra
    • Reply 12 of 17
      dysamoria said:

      It’s about an industry that exploits and abuses human psychology, on purpose, for profit.
      Like some advertising, social media platforms, or video gaming entities to name a few other abusers for profit.

      I take your point. I'll look into the history and how prevalent systemic abuse may be.

      I'm not sure that the "whales" you refer to are same as the abused "degens" as they're sometimes called who are playing for the rent. The big casino operators would lead us to believe that whales are those in an income class with enough money that they can throw it away without consequence. Maybe.
    • Reply 13 of 17
      Are you advocating for online gambling legalization only, or for all forms of gambling to be legalized? Are you advocating it for all US states or just certain ones? Are you aware that two states prohibit all forms of gambling (Hawaii and Utah)? Are you aware that Nevada prohibits lotteries? Do you consider Nevada to be a Puritan state?

      Do you want to take away the rights of US states to prohibit gambling? Do you want to take away the rights of states to pass commerce laws? Do you realize that this would require a change to the US constitution? Do you have a proposed constitutional amendment that you would like to share with us?

      Did you notice that I didn't make any argument, rather I just asked you questions to clarify the ambiguities in your arguments?

      If gambling was completely legal to the full extent of your dreams, do you think that would make Americans stop gambling on offshore sites? Is that the reason you want it legalized, so it can be regulated? How is that even logical since offshore sites can never be regulated and you are not calling for such sites to be illegal in the US?
      Let the system, as established, work. No constitutional amendments. No reduction, removal, or adulteration of states rights. All I want to do is play some legal, state licensed online poker without the intrusion of bots or risking the loss of money held by shady offshore entities. That and place an occasional sports bet. I don't care about casino games or lotteries or other forms of gambling that require no skill. If people want to play roulette, so be it.
    • Reply 14 of 17
      Are you advocating for online gambling legalization only, or for all forms of gambling to be legalized? Are you advocating it for all US states or just certain ones? Are you aware that two states prohibit all forms of gambling (Hawaii and Utah)? Are you aware that Nevada prohibits lotteries? Do you consider Nevada to be a Puritan state?

      Do you want to take away the rights of US states to prohibit gambling? Do you want to take away the rights of states to pass commerce laws? Do you realize that this would require a change to the US constitution? Do you have a proposed constitutional amendment that you would like to share with us?

      Did you notice that I didn't make any argument, rather I just asked you questions to clarify the ambiguities in your arguments?

      If gambling was completely legal to the full extent of your dreams, do you think that would make Americans stop gambling on offshore sites? Is that the reason you want it legalized, so it can be regulated? How is that even logical since offshore sites can never be regulated and you are not calling for such sites to be illegal in the US?
      Let the system, as established, work. No constitutional amendments. No reduction, removal, or adulteration of states rights. All I want to do is play some legal, state licensed online poker without the intrusion of bots or risking the loss of money held by shady offshore entities. That and place an occasional sports bet. I don't care about casino games or lotteries or other forms of gambling that require no skill. If people want to play roulette, so be it.
      Um, you contradict yourself because you start by saying "no constitutional amendments" but then you say you want gambling legalized. You can't legalize something when it is unconstitutional. At least one US state has gambling prohibited by its constitution. Did you know that each of the 50 US states has its own constitution? Some people don't know that.

      Since you didn't mention which US state you are in, I presume you want new laws in nearly all 50 states, not for yourself, but so that everyone else has the same rights that you do. I thought you were arguing for yourself at first, but now I realize you are trying to impose your values on everyone else. 
    • Reply 15 of 17
      Um, you contradict yourself because you start by saying "no constitutional amendments" but then you say you want gambling legalized. You can't legalize something when it is unconstitutional. At least one US state has gambling prohibited by its constitution. Did you know that each of the 50 US states has its own constitution? Some people don't know that.

      Since you didn't mention which US state you are in, I presume you want new laws in nearly all 50 states, not for yourself, but so that everyone else has the same rights that you do. I thought you were arguing for yourself at first, but now I realize you are trying to impose your values on everyone else. 
      Amended: "no amendments to the US constitution"

      I considered including "US" and should have for clarity. I would not seek to amend the US constitution in order to usurp states rights or inhibit their ability to make their own decisions about legalizing or prohibiting gambling. I'll also amend my remarks to pluralize "system" to read: "Let the systems, as established, work." —meaning each state and their respective constitution. My state, like several others, is considering making certain types of gambling legal. The pressure of neighboring states having already done so (similar to the spread of casinos across the US map), is one factor.

      As for your multiple presumptions, including that "
      you are trying to impose your values on everyone else" —how tiresome you are with your extrapolations made to over-characterize one's position. If any of several mechanisms available to change or establish laws as outlined in my state's constitution (I'm not sure if amending the state constitution is required, though I'll look into that for my own edification) ultimately do not legalize any, some, many, or all types of gambling, so be it. I'll abide. As I said, I'm happy to let the system(s), as established, work.
    • Reply 16 of 17
      Um, you contradict yourself because you start by saying "no constitutional amendments" but then you say you want gambling legalized. You can't legalize something when it is unconstitutional. At least one US state has gambling prohibited by its constitution. Did you know that each of the 50 US states has its own constitution? Some people don't know that.

      Since you didn't mention which US state you are in, I presume you want new laws in nearly all 50 states, not for yourself, but so that everyone else has the same rights that you do. I thought you were arguing for yourself at first, but now I realize you are trying to impose your values on everyone else. 
      Amended: "no amendments to the US constitution"

      I considered including "US" and should have for clarity. I would not seek to amend the US constitution in order to usurp states rights or inhibit their ability to make their own decisions about legalizing or prohibiting gambling. I'll also amend my remarks to pluralize "system" to read: "Let the systems, as established, work." —meaning each state and their respective constitution. My state, like several others, is considering making certain types of gambling legal. The pressure of neighboring states having already done so (similar to the spread of casinos across the US map), is one factor.

      As for your multiple presumptions, including that "you are trying to impose your values on everyone else" —how tiresome you are with your extrapolations made to over-characterize one's position. If any of several mechanisms available to change or establish laws as outlined in my state's constitution (I'm not sure if amending the state constitution is required, though I'll look into that for my own edification) ultimately do not legalize any, some, many, or all types of gambling, so be it. I'll abide. As I said, I'm happy to let the system(s), as established, work.
      You can understand that the reason I said "you are trying to impose your values on everyone else" is because of the words which you have now retracted. You can't blame me for making my statements based on what you actually said rather than on your now amended statements.
    • Reply 17 of 17
      You can understand that the reason I said "you are trying to impose your values on everyone else" is because of the words which you have now retracted. You can't blame me for making my statements based on what you actually said rather than on your now amended statements.
      I retract nothing. I stand by my clarified remarks.
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