Social gaming advocates organize in Washington State
At the heart of their fight is a growing move in Washington to label social gaming casinos as real casinos when players are allowed to purchase chips. The movement to pull social gaming under the umbrella of real-money gaming was bolstered back in March 2018 when a federal judge decided that the virtual chips social players purchase from companies like Big Fish Games (and in this case specifically the Washington-based Big Fish Games) were the equivalent of real casino chips and thus illegal under state law. This put a major crimp in the plans of social gaming companies and, indeed, threatened their entire existence.
To help combat the decision, and to prevent it from becoming the legal standard for all social casinos, advocates of the industry formed a lobbying group called Game On WA to “keep free-to-play games in Washington State”. Whether or not the group is composed of actual players or merely hired industry advocates is a matter that could likely be debated. Regardless, the group is dead set on selling the idea that free-to-play games are just that, free-to-play. And if someone winds up purchasing some virtual chips that can be used like money in a virtual casino? In their eyes, that’s not gambling at all.
In fact, they point out that 91 percent of free-to-play social casino players will never purchase a chip. (That argument may not sway lawmakers, since only a tiny percentage of all gamblers wind up being problem gamblers anyways.)
Washington’s social gaming advocates may also find that the state legislature is preoccupied with other matters, such as sports betting, and may not be interested in taking up the cause of free-to-play slots supporters.