U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Big Fish Casino Illegal Online Gambling

Published April 1, 2018 by Florin P

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Big Fish Casino Illegal Online Gambling

Judge Milan D. Smith overturns a district court ruling and states that Big Fish Casino engaged in illegal online gambling.

Big Fish Casino is a gaming operator owned by Aristocrat and offering interactive social games to US players. Back in 2015, when the company was operated by Churchill Downs, Cheryl Kater filed a case against it, to recuperate the money spent on virtual chips. The case previously dismissed by a District Court, was brought in the spotlight when Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned that ruling. Judge Milan D. Smith ruled that Big Fish Casino constituted illegal online gambling.

Kater claimed that she spent in excess of $1000 on the virtual chips needed to play slots, roulette and blackjack at Big Fish Casino. By including these chips into the category of “thing of value”, the judge ruled that the casino broke the Washington state law for online gambling. Judge Milan D. Smith stated in his opinion that people have to pay for the privilege of playing the game, which is illegal gambling.

The Decision Sends Shockwaves Throughout Social Casinos

With online gambling deemed illegal in most US states, operators such as Big Fish Casino provide a legal alternative. The company set important milestones over the last couple of years and caught the eye of Australian gaming technology firm Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. They purchased the venture in November 2017 for almost $1 billion, a move that was expected to inspire other investors. In the wake of this decision, other online gambling companies could become the target of lawsuits from disgruntled players.

For the time being, Kater’s case will be returned to the district court and Churchill Downs, the former owner will have another chance to argue the case. The company has the option of going straight to the U.S. Supreme Court to have this decision overruled. In the absence of specific federal laws regulating online gambling, social casinos have to deal with different state laws. This means that other major players in this industry could find themselves in Big Fish Casino’s unenviable situation.

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