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A federal appears court ruled yesterday that Big Fish Games' Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal online gambling under Washington state law.
This is notable, as new legislation being passed could jeopardize the future of monetization for the casual games market.
This decision also comes a few months after Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker introduced a bill seeking to determine if loot boxes were a form of gambling that preyed on children.
As reported by Geekwire, the original complaint was made against previous Big Fish parent company Churchill Downs in 2015 by Cheryl Kater, who purchased more than $1,000 in virtual chips playing Big Fish Casino.
According to Washington law, anyone who loses "a thing of value" to an illegal gambling operation has legal grounds to gain back those losses. In 2016, a U.S. District Court Judge in Seattle threw out Kater’s complaint, but yesterday's decision reversed that ruling.
Although they have no monetary value, the virtual chips in Big Fish Casino qualify as "things of value" because they extend the length of time in which a user can play the game. If a player runs out of virtual chips, they must wait for the game to provide more, or purchase more themselves.
"The virtual chips, as alleged in the complaint, permit a user to play the casino games inside the virtual Big Fish Casino," the court ruled. "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."