“Free” Gambling Apps, In-App Purchases, and State Law Investigation

Are free gambling apps subject to state gambling laws? What about if they offer in-app purchases, so that players pay real money to keep playing?

Are these gambling apps legal, or are the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store profiting from illegal gambling? We’re launching an investigation to sort this out.

With the Internet playing an ever-larger role in how people do everything, things like gambling apps have proliferated and are testing jurisdictional boundaries.

Up to now, “Real” gambling apps, where players must pay real money up front to play and can win real money in return, have only been allowed in four countries: Brazil, France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. However, Google has announced that it will be bringing these kinds of games to its Play Store in another fifteen countries starting March 1, 2021. They may include online casinos, sports betting, lotteries, or daily fantasy sports, depending on the types of gambling each country permits.

But what about free gambling apps, where players are not required to pay to play? Those have been offered at the Apple and Google stores, with the idea that players are not risking real money. Players start out with a number of “chips” or “coins.” If they win, they gain more. But if they lose, their use up that initial supply and are invited to use real money to buy more. Their cash purchases then allow them to keep playing.

Gamers have lost a lot of money on these in-app purchases. It is reported that Americans spent $3.5 billion in 2019 playing these “free” games, which appear to be addictive.

Class action suits have already been filed against the Apple App Store, alleging violations of Ohio laws, and against the Google Play Store alleging New Mexico violations. Yet another against the Apple App Store alleges that the Zynga apps it offers violate the laws of twenty-five states.

Google and Apple distribute the games, and they also make a considerable amount of money from the in-app purchases.

Huuuge, Big Fish, Playtika, and others have already agreed to settlements in other cases.

We’d like to hear from you if you’ve downloaded and played one of the “free” gambling apps below, and you’re from one of the following states: 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.

Fill out the form on this page and see if you qualify to join a class action.


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Article Type: Investigation
Topic: Consumer
No case events.
Tags: Electronic Apps and Updates, Entertainment, Gambling or Gambling Games