amazon-rejects-liability-for-social-casino-apps,-asks-judge-to-halt-lawsuit

Amazon Rejects Liability for Social Casino Apps, Asks Judge to Halt Lawsuit

Amazon attorneys last week responded to the company being named in a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging it conspired with social casino app developers to run what the plaintiffs argue essentially constitutes illegal gambling.

Amazon social casino app lawsuit
Amazon is denying liability for offering free-to-play social casino apps. The company is accused of profiting off what the plaintiff’s attorneys allege to be illegal gambling enterprises. (Image: Reuters)

Amazon in November was named as a defendant in a lawsuit challenging the online marketplace’s allowance of free-to-play social casino apps. While games like Slotomania and Double Down Vegas Slots are free to play, players can purchase additional gameplay credits once their initial allotment of spins runs dry. They cannot win back the money they spend purchasing credits.

Plaintiff Steve Horn of Nevada claims he became addicted to social gaming apps and made more than 320 financial transactions playing the games he downloaded from the Amazon Apps & Games Store. In responding to the litigation filed in the Western District of Washington, Amazon’s counsel says the case should be dismissed because Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 immunizes internet platforms from legal claims over third-party content.

Horn’s litigation claims Amazon acted as the bank for the social casino apps and helped facilitate the running of “illegal slots.”

Stay Petition

Amazon believes the social gaming lawsuit has no merit. But if the case isn’t thrown out, attorneys representing the tech behemoth say the litigation should at least be put on hold until similar lawsuits against Apple, Google, and Meta’s Facebook play out. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to take up those cases in April or May, Reuters reports.

Because the Ninth Circuit’s resolution of the consolidated appeal will either foreclose this case entirely or substantially simplify the threshold CDA immunity issue, Amazon respectfully requests that the Court stay this action until the Ninth Circuit issues its opinion,” Amazon petitioned. “Doing so would prevent the parties and the Court from wasting resources on a complex issue that the Ninth Circuit will soon resolve, and to the extent a dispute still remains, the Court would benefit from having the Ninth Circuit’s guidance before addressing the viability of Mr. Horn’s claims.”

Section 230 of the CDA “protects certain internet-based actors from certain kinds of lawsuits.” The 2009 landmark Barnes v. Yahoo! case, which was determined in the Ninth Circuit, concluded that internet service providers cannot be held responsible for objectionable content posted to their websites or platforms by a third party.

CSA Not Absolute

While the CDA provides legal protections for app stores, it does not protect a company that knowingly violates criminal law.

Horn contends that Amazon knowingly allowed illegal casino apps on its marketplace. The crux of the case is based on a 2018 ruling from the Ninth Circuit that ruled the social gaming app Big Fish Casino constituted illegal online gambling.

Despite knowing that social casinos are illegal, Amazon continues to maintain a 30% financial interest in the upside by brokering the slot machine games, driving customers to them, and acting as the bank,” Horn’s litigation read. “As such, Amazon is liable as a co-conspirator to an illegal gambling enterprise and conspiracy.”

It’s estimated that social gaming apps in the US generated over $6 billion in revenue last year.

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