Apple hit with class action regarding ‘unlicensed casino’ allegations

Apple has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the United States which alleges that the tech giant is breaking the anti-gambling laws of twenty-five states.

The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs Joshua McDonald and Michael Helsel in the US District Court Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, alleges that the group has been profiting from illegal gambling games developed by DoubleU Games Co.

The plaintiffs are seeking statutory damages and costs, as well as the implementation of an injunction prohibiting Apple from taking part in the allegedly illegal acts. A jury trial is also demanded.

The suit alleges that ‘Apple permits and facilitates illegal gambling by operating as an unlicensed casino,’ citing the use of in-game currencies as a major contributing factor.

It reads that, upon downloading and opening the DoubleU Casino Apps, consumers are given free ‘coins’ or ‘chips’ to begin, which, upon depleting, prompts the ‘use of real money to purchase additional coins or chips for the chance to continue playing the game’.

It adds: “consumers do not have the ability to collect actual cash as a result of ‘winning’ games, but they do have the ability to win and therefore acquire more playing time”.

As a result, it is suggested that ‘paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time violates the antigambling laws of the twenty-five states that are at issue in this case’.

These are Alabama, Arkansas; Connecticut; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; 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.

McDonald is said to have made a coin purchase in the amount $4.99, with Helsel detailing five separate coin purchases, each in the amount of $107.99. Both seek to recover money paid and lost due to gambling on the DoubleU Casino App.

The suit also cites a study which states that free-to-play ‘casino gamers share many similar sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., employment, education, income) with online gamblers,’ and which adds ‘the purchase of virtual credits or virtual items makes the activity of [free-to-play] casino gaming more similar to gambling’.

In addition to alleging that individuals in the US lost approximately $3.5bn playing free-to-play apps in the US in 2019, the filing continues: “Since Apple is responsible, in part, for the creation or development of the DoubleU Casino Apps and provides the sole means by which DoubleU Casino Apps developers can offer distribute, and sell their DoubleU Casino Apps to Apple consumers (i.e., through the App Store), Apple functions as an information content provider for the subject DoubleU Casino Apps. Accordingly, Apple actively enables, permits, promotes, and profits from illegal gambling”.