Google Sued for Distributing, Selling Zynga Gambling Games on Google Play

A consumer filed a class-action complaint on Wednesday in the Northern District of California against Google and Google Payment Corp. alleging that they “profit(s) from illegal gambling games developed by Zynga, Inc. and offered, sold, and distributed by Google through its Google Play Store for consumers to download and play.” This occurred a few days after Zynga was hit with a class-action lawsuit over its social slots video games.

The plaintiff claimed that Google “offers, sells, and distributes casino-style slot machines, casino-style table games, and other common gambling games to consumers through Google Play” which purportedly constitute illegal gambling pursuant to various California laws. The plaintiff claimed that Android users pay to purchase the apps or make in-app purchases through Google Play, thus they pay money to Google. The defendant allegedly requires app developers using the Google Play Store to use its billing system if they offer in-app purchases where Google receives a 30 percent commission.  

The plaintiff added that both Google and Zynga are “responsible for the creation or development of the Apps at issue here.” Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that “Google permits and facilitates illegal gambling by operating as an unlicensed casino” because it “sells, offers, and distributes several free-to-play casino-style games developed by Zynga through Google Play for consumers to download and play.”

The plaintiff explained that when a consumer first downloads and opens a Zynga Casino App, they are given some free game coins or chips, and the opportunity to win additional coins or chips. “Ultimately, the consumer will run out of coins or chips and will be prompted to use real money to purchase additional coins or chips for the chance to continue playing the game,” the complaint said. The plaintiff noted that “consumers do not have the ability to collect actual cash as a result of ‘winning’ games, but they do have the ability to win and therefore acquire more playing time.” However, according to the plaintiff, “paying money in a game for a chance to win more playing time violates the anti-gambling laws of the twenty-five states that are at issue in this case.”

The plaintiff claimed that in 2019, Americans lost approximately $3.5 billion “playing ‘free-to-play’ Apps like the Zynga Casino Apps.” The plaintiff emphasized that while consumers cannot win real money playing these games, the money spent and lost to play these games are real and “playing the Apps can lead to devastating consequences for those who get addicted.” The plaintiff added that “most of the revenue earned from these casino-style Apps (i.e., 80-90%) is made from a small portion (i.e., about 3%) of their players, who are specifically targeted because of the large amounts they will spend.” As a result, the plaintiff argued that Google “actively enables, permits, promotes, and profits from illegal gambling.”

According to the complaint, the plaintiff downloaded Zynga’s Willy Wonka Slots for free and eventually purchased coins. The plaintiff stated that in the three months before the filing he paid approximately $160 to purchase coins to continue playing the game.

The causes of action alleged in the complaint are violations of civil remedy statutes for recovery of gambling losses and unjust enrichment. The plaintiff seeks class certification, injunctive and equitable relief, an award for damages, restitution and disgorgement, an award for costs and fees, prejudgment interest, and other relief.

The multistate class consists of: “All persons who paid money to Google for coins to wager on the Zynga Casino Apps and reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.” There is also a class for each respective state.

The plaintiff is represented by Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, as well as Tycko & Zavareei, and Kopelowitz Ostrow Ferguson Weiselberg Gilbert.

Recently, Apple also faced a lawsuit for hosting and profiting from illegal gambling games and a similar suit from Ohio consumers.