Washington State Court Rules Big Fish Casino Illegal Gambling
Big Fish Casino

The battle of microtransactions still continues and it looks like the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Big Fish Games’ casino game, Big Fish Casino, represents illegal gambling under the State of Washington’s current laws.

If you don’t know, Big Fish Casino contains a list of games like blackjack, slots and so on that use virtual chips. Players use chips to play games under the Big Fish Casino belt. Upon running out of chips, players can either wait until the game offers more chips or they can buy more with real money.

Well, according to both publication sites gamesindustry.biz and geekwire.com it is reported that Big Fish Games’ Big Fish Casino represents illegal gambling under the Washington State existing laws.

According to both publication sites, this new legislation being passed could affect the future of microtransactions, especially for the casual games market.

The former site makes mention that this decision comes a few months after Washington State Senator, Kevin Ranker, revealed a bill seeking to determine if loot-boxes were a form of gambling “that preyed on children.”

All of the above is said to stem from a “complaint” that was brought against Big Fish former parent company, Churchill Downs, back in 2015, by a woman who lost around $1,000 in virtual chips playing Big Fish Casino.

Both sites relay that under Washington law, anyone who loses “a thing of value” to an “illegal gambling operation” has the “legal ground to recover those losses.” This is similar to when Washington State had Valve shut down the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive third-party loot box websites, because the gambling commission from the state determined that the loot box sites were partaking in illegal gambling operations.

Furthermore, it is said that a lower court ruled virtual chips are not a thing of value, however the appeals court reversed that decision. Judge Milan Smith wrote:

“Defendant-Appellee Churchill Downs, the game’s owner and operator, has made millions of dollars off of Big Fish Casino.”

Smith continued:

“However, despite collecting millions in revenue, Churchill Downs, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, purports to be shocked–shocked!–to find that Big Fish Casino could constitute illegal gambling. We are not. We therefore reverse the district court and hold that because Big Fish Casino’s virtual chips are a ‘thing of value,’ Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal gambling under Washington law.”

Washington law defines gambling as “risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance.” As for the definition of “value” it includes the following:

“Any token directly or indirectly exchangeable for money, property, or the extension of a service, entertainment, or a privilege of playing a game or scheme without charge.”

The ruling, however, does not see Big Fish Casino chips to be of value outside the game. The reasoning behind that part was Big Fish’s terms of use specifically prohibiting the sale of virtual chips. The very thing that resulted inĀ  Big Fish Casino chips being considered gambling was how the chips “extend users’ privilege of playing the games.”

Lastly, the appellate court ruled that…

“The virtual chips, as alleged in the complaint, permit a user to play the casino games inside the virtual Big Fish Casino. They are a credit that allows a user to place another wager or re-spin a slot machine. Without virtual chips, a user is unable to play Big Fish Casino’s various games.”


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