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Aristocrat pulled into Big Fish Casino's virtual chip lawsuit

Are free-to-play casinos really free? That’s the question being asked in a lawsuit that was recently filed in Washington State by an aggrieved player who lost $3,000 at Big Fish Casino. Manasa Thimmegowd, of Washington State is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Australian gaming giant Aristocrat that could shake up the social casino business in a significant way.
In her lawsuit, Thimmegowd says she began playing games on Big Fish Casino in 2017 and very quickly spent $3,000 purchasing chips on the free-to-play iPhone app. Those virtual chips, her lawyers argue, constitute a thing of value and that changed the situation from a free-to-play casino into an actual casino.
The lawsuit goes on to say, “By operating Big Fish Casino and other similar online gambling games, defendants have violated Washington law and illegally profited from tens of thousands of customers. Accordingly, [the] plaintiff, on behalf of herself and a class of similarly situated individuals, brings this lawsuit to recover her losses and to obtain the appropriate relief,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The case could wind up being very expensive for Aristocrat, which purchased Big Fish for $1.3 billion last year from its previous owners, Churchill Downs because a Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals judge recently ruled that Big Fish Casino constitutes illegal gambling in Washington. That’s because those virtual chips, “extend the privilege of playing,” and are therefore a thing of value.
The outcome of this case could, of course, have a major impact on social casinos that serve customers anywhere in the United States and could prove very costly for Aristocrat. While the company hasn’t commented extensively on the case, they do say that they plan to vigorously contest it.