Apple struck with class motion lawsuits over gambling apps


A class action lawsuit filed on Tuesday is aimed against Apple for hosting and benefiting from casino-style apps through the App Store, particularly titles developed by Zynga.

The lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Columbia and concerns free games that offer microtransactions or in-app purchases for digital currencies or other forms of digital goods.

The plaintiffs cite "Zynga Casino Apps" as a violation of a number of state laws relating to gambling. It is Apple's fault that they provide iOS development tools, host the titles in the App Store and benefit from their sales. As the sole administrator of the App Store, Apple "allegedly allows and facilitates illegal gambling by acting as an unlicensed casino" so that users can buy "coins" or "chips" for Las Vegas-style games like blackjack, roulette and poker, Keno , Bingo and other card and gambling games.

Most of the games mentioned in the lawsuit contain a limited number of chips to start, but users will have to purchase additional virtual funds once that pot is depleted. The consumer will ultimately run out of coins or chips and "will be asked to use real money to buy extra coins or chips so that they can keep playing the game," the lawsuit states.

According to the plaintiffs, it is important that users are not able to collect actual money on the casino games, but they do have the opportunity to win and thus gain more gaming time. This system – paying money for the chance to win more gaming time – allegedly violates anti-gambling laws in the 25 states at issue.

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 lawsuit.

The grounds for complaint include violations of the civil protection laws for the recovery of gambling losses and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs are seeking injunction, damages, reimbursement and legal fees.

The lawsuit is nearly identical to a case filed in October alleging that gambling apps violate state laws by asking users to pay real money in order to get more gaming time. A recent complaint, filed in January, questions the addictiveness of casino-style games.