Google has profited from its sale of “illegal” gambling games developed by Zynga, Inc. in the Play Store, a proposed class action claims.
The 23-page lawsuit alleges the casino-style slot machine, table and other common gambling games available through the Google Play store constitute illegal gambling under the laws of 25 states, and equates Google’s hosting of Zynga’s free-to-play games in its app store to “permit[ing] and facilitat[ing] illegal gambling by operating as an unlicensed casino.”
The issue, the suit says, is that consumers do not have the ability to collect actual cash in the event they “win” a Zynga game. Winners may only acquire more playing time, according to the case.
The lawsuit says that paying money in a game of chance to win more playing time violates 25 states’ anti-gambling laws.
“In 2019, people in the United States lost approximately $3.5 billion playing ‘free-to-play’ Apps like the Zynga Casino Apps,” the case says. “Despite the fact that these Zynga Casino Apps do not offer an opportunity to win real money or prizes, the money spent by consumers to purchase additional coins or chips to continue playing the Apps can lead to devastating consequences for those who get addicted.”
Zynga offers a number of free-to-play gambling game apps, including, but not limited to, YüzBir Okey Plus, Bid Whist Plus, Black Diamond Casino Slots, Game of Thrones Slots Casino, Gin Rummy Plus, Hit it Rich! Slots, Okey Plus, Solitaire, Spades Plus, Willy Wonka Slots, Wizard of Oz Slots, Zero21 Solitaire, and Zynga Poker, the suit relays. Upon downloading a game, a consumer is given free “coins” or “chips” to start; a loss in a game will result in the loss of coins or chips, but the player has an opportunity to win additional coins or chips, the case reads. Ultimately, however, a consumer will run out of coins or chips and be prompted to use real money to buy additional coins or chips in order to continue playing, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims most of the revenue, 80 to 90 percent, earned from casino-style apps is made from a small portion, around three percent, of the games’ players, who are reportedly “targeted” specifically because of the large amounts they will spend. Governments around the world have acted to limit the availability of micro-transaction-based games of chance, such as those made by Zynga, due to their similarity to real casino games, per the suit. Zynga’s casino-style games, however, are unregulated in the U.S., which according to the complaint, has led thousands of consumers to spend millions only to become addicted to the games downloaded through the Google Play store. Google, for its part, shares the blame for the illegal gambling scheme, the lawsuit charges.
“Since Google is responsible, in part, for the creation or development of the Zynga Casino Apps and provides the sole means by which Zynga can offer, distribute, and sell their Zynga Casino Apps to Google customers (i.e., through Google Play), Google functions as an information content provider for the subject of Zynga Casino apps,” the case reads. “Accordingly, Google actively enables, permits, promotes, and profits from illegal gambling.”
The lawsuit looks to represent consumers who paid money to Google for coins to wager on Zynga’s casino apps and reside in 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 or West Virginia.
According to the complaint, the 25 states listed above each have civil remedy statutes for recovery of gambling losses.
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