The tactics used to keep Coin Master players in the game are the subject of a proposed class action lawsuit filed in New York.
The 12-page complaint alleges Moon Active Ltd., the maker of the popular “social casino” app, uses a number of methods to mislead players into thinking the operations of the mobile game are random, when in fact they involve “the unlawful expenditure of money for additional game play.”
As the case tells it, the outcomes in Coin Master, reportedly the second-largest “social casino” game across the iOS and Android operating systems, are not as random as players are led to believe.
“Plaintiff and class members desired to play a game which did not constitute gambling and was lawful and would not lure them to spend increasing amounts of money, with a ‘return’ which was not even random but manipulated so they spent more money,” the suit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Coin Master encourages players to spend real money on the slot machine portion of the game to build villages and attack those of other players. Per the suit, the game’s success is linked to its incorporation of “traditional action, village-building and social aspects, but with gambling elements at its center.”
Unlike a regular casino, however, Coin Master players, with “some exceptions,” do not win real money as a reward for what they spend on the game, the suit says.
The complaint says users of social casino games like Coin Master often migrate to conventional gambling activities, “with high rates of problem gambling.” As many of Coin Master’s players are under 18 years old, the defendant, as the game’s maker, has “special duties and responsibilities” that it has violated, including by “promoting and profiting from prohibited gambling activity” through the game’s “Card Collection” feature, the lawsuit claims. The suit says players collect and trade cards within Coin Master to complete their sets, which provides in-game advantages, and there exists an “active third-party market” for card trades, which often see real money being exchanged for cards.
According to the lawsuit, Coin Master is considered gambling under New York state law in that players stake or risk something of value upon the outcome of a contest of change or a future contingent event not under their control, with the agreement or understanding that they will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. Under state law, the definition of “something of value” includes the “extension of a service, entertainment or a privilege of playing at a game or scheme without charge,” per the case.
Coin Master players are, in theory, “subject to the same forces of chance” as those who play a pinball machine or other gaming device, the lawsuit says, as users must spin a slot machine to win coins, receive five free spins an hour and thereafter can continue to play if they buy more spins to potentially receive more coins. The suit alleges, however, that Coin Master’s tactics used to keep players in the game “are said to go beyond ‘randomness’ and involve tilting the scales in favor of the ‘house.’” Namely, the case alleges players who spend more money on the game are treated better than those who don’t:
“Numerous reports describe players who spend more money buying spins getting the ability to raid villages with higher volumes of coins, which is not disclosed.
This is intended to ‘penalize’ those who do not purchase spins and cause those who do purchase spins to buy and spend more.”
The lawsuit says critics have slammed Coin Master for calculating the number of spins a player needs to obtain a prize and then “rigs the outcome so the player expends the maximum amount of money possible in pursuit of such prize.” Moreover, the suit mentions the existence of “constant stories” of players who come up just short of the coins they need to upgrade their status and positions in the game, which in turn forces the player to buy more spins. These tactics, the lawsuit alleges, mislead players “who think the game operations are random when the goal is to maximize the money spent by players.”
“However, even if the dynamics of the game are random, they still involve the unlawful expenditure of money for additional game play,” the complaint reads. “Only Coin Master’s tactics go beyond those conceived by the pinball machine makers of old.”
Per the case, New York’s General Obligations Law provides that a bettor who loses $25 or more may, within three calendar months, “sue for and recover the money or value of the things so lost and paid or delivered, from the winner thereof.”
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