virtual casino mobile

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that players who lost “virtual gold” in the virtual casino of a mobile video game did not lose real money and, therefore, could not bring a class action under Maryland’s gambling loss recovery statute, Md. In , players must progress through a leveling system in order to acquire and upgrade items, resources and abilities for use in battles.

The decision provides guidance to developers on how to avoid being accused of creating or supporting unlawful gambling or being liable under gambling loss recovery statutes.

When a new level is reached, players, for example, can create new buildings, add to a fortress, produce more troops or acquire new weapons.

Relies on a “freemium” pricing strategy, meaning while it is free to download the app and play the game, players can spend real money to purchase “virtual gold”—ranging from $4.99 for 1,200 pieces of virtual gold to $99.99 for 20,000 pieces of virtual gold—that players use to “speed up” their progress through levels and acquire new items and resources for use in battle.

Importantly for this case, in addition to using virtual gold to “level up,” allows players to spend virtual gold on “chips” for use on a prize wheel in the game’s virtual casino.

The virtual prizes include virtual items and resources for use in battle, as well as additional virtual chips or virtual gold.

Players who spin the virtual wheel have no control over the outcome of the spin and, thus, no skill on the part of the player influences what virtual prize the player will receive.

This virtual casino aspect of the game is what gave rise to the putative class action complaint.

The complaint alleged that class members lost money participating in an unlawful “gaming device” under the Loss Recovery Statute—specifically, the portion of that allows players to spin the virtual wheel to win virtual prizes for use in the battle-based portion of the game.

The complaint sought recovery of alleged gambling losses the class members incurred from spinning the virtual wheel—specifically, the difference between the amount of money paid to spin the virtual wheel, and the monetary value of the virtual prizes she won.

The complaint also asserted claims under California’s unfair competition law, as well as a common law claim of unjust enrichment.

The district court dismissed the complaint at the pleading stage before ruling on plaintiff’s request to certify a class action, concluding that the plaintiff did not “lose money” when she “spun” the virtual wheel and, therefore, had failed to state a claim under the Loss Recovery Statute.