Washington court rules High 5 Games social casino is illegal

Illegal gambling concept
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After a protracted legal case, two mobile apps offered by High 5 Games have been ruled illegal in Washington.

Western Washington District Court Judge Tiffany Cartwright found that High 5 Casino and High 5 Vegas constitute online gambling, which is illegal in the state.

Since Washington classifies online gambling as anything that requires users to stake value on the outcome of a game of chance or an event with a prize on offer for a certain outcome, it is a state that many gaming operators, even social ones, avoid operating in.

High 5 contended that since it operates with virtual coins, it does not constitute gambling and is instead a “social casino,” defined in the verdict summary as games that emulate video slot machines used for gambling in physical casinos.

However, Cartwright determined the games are nonetheless prohibited under the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Recovery of Money Lost at Gambling Act.

“The undisputed material facts as to liability show that High 5’s games violate Washington’s gambling laws and the Consumer Protection Act,” she wrote.

The verdict comes six years after High 5 Games player Rick Larsen first filed the suit alleging that the apps promoted illegal gambling by requiring players to purchase additional chips using real money. High 5’s rebuttal was that players can opt to use the free coins they begin with upon registration and are subsequently periodically awarded and do not need to spend real money.

Cartwright referred to previous arguments from other district courts which had found that this technicality does not matter because users cannot play with any regularity unless they are willing to pay. Washington law differs from many other states in that it recognizes virtual currency as a “thing of value” even if it cannot redeemed for cash.

High 5 Games says it has made efforts to cease operating in Washington by geoblocking players and asking for confirmation of their address. Cartwright ruled the company is liable to pay damages to Larsen and the other plaintiffs named in the suit, the amount of which will be determined by a jury.

SBC Americas reached out to the company for a comment on the verdict but has yet to receive a response.

High 5 Games lawsuit one of multiple similar cases in Washington

A separate case in the WEstern Washington District Court also involving High 5 Games, Wilson vs. PTT, LLC, is still active but has not made progress since early 2003.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Judge Robert Lasnik ruled in Seattle federal court that online gaming companies DoubleDown Interactive and International Game Technology (IGT) also violated Washington state gambling law by offering similar “social casino” games.

Those games, like High 5’s, are free to play but users can pay for additional chips. The lawsuit said consumers bet to acquire more chips that they otherwise would need to buy.