Apple is suing for providing social gambling video games

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Apple may not be a gambling company, but a new lawsuit claims they're involved enough in the business to be subject to the same regulations. A class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Columbia claims they must comply with the same laws that apply to online gambling and pay for the damage they have done in states where it is not legal.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that "Zynga Casino Apps" violate statues of gambling in up to 25 states. Plaintiffs believe that Apple is also liable for allowing the apps in their app store, drawing rewards from microtransactions, and providing iOS development tools.

They state that Apple "allows and facilitates illegal gambling by operating as an unlicensed casino". While the games don't offer any real reward, they believe Apple and Zynga are offering a form of gambling by allowing the purchase of coins or chips at games like poker or blackjack for real money.

The suit may have a point where it's about Zynga. Although there is no money to be won with the games, winning naturally extends the game time. By also allowing microtransactions for more chips, the game developer may be violating gambling laws in up to 25 states.

Apple was previously informed of the legal obligations that Zynga games could cause in some countries. In August 2019, social gaming apps like Zynga Poker were limited to accounts aged 17 and over in "all countries and regions". Specifically, attempts have been made to keep the App Store safe for kids who shouldn't be playing the latest 5 reel SpongeBob game.

Apple could be clear on this, following a recent ruling by a judge. Google was let off the hook when a California federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the company alleging they were responsible for boxes of loot on the Play Store. The judge ruled that Google is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which states that the platform provider is not to blame for anything offered in its business.

In this case, the judge found that plaintiffs could have argued their case better, and that could be advice these Apple plaintiffs were following. By showing companies like Zynga that they got Apple help with development tools, and by specifically pointing out that Apple is making some of the profits, they may have just enough to win the suit.