Washington state lawmakers submitted two identical bills in the House and Senate last week that could help Big Fish Casino and similar undertakings operating in the state.
What do the bills suggest?
State Rep. Zach Hudgins presented the bill in the house while State Senator Mark Mullet presented the bill in the Senate. They seek to modify the gambling law of Washington state that will exempt the social gaming industry from legal problems. Players don’t cash out their wins for real money in these games. The bills will provide a legal stamp to these games where players can buy non-redeemable virtual chips.
The bill suggests that online games of chance that are played only for entertainment purposes with virtual items and do not include real money should be removed from ‘illegal gambling games.’ It states that the virtual items,
“may be used only for gameplay and may not be, per the terms of service of the game, transferred, exchanged, or redeemed for money or property.”
Good news for Big Fish
Washington State has adopted a welcoming attitude towards game makers via its policy initiatives. Nintendo, Microsoft, Epic and Valve are some of the prominent game makers that have run operations in the state. The state is home to 20% of the global video game development.
At the same time, domestic social casinos have to face legal obstacles as they face numerous class action lawsuits. The most important of these suits were filed in 2015 when Big Fish social casino player Cheryl Kater sued the company. She claimed to have spent more than $1,000 on Big Fish Games. She said the Seattle-based company was offering illegal gambling services in the state.
She cited the Washington state Recovery of Money Lost at Gambling Act to recoup her losses. The case didn’t find firm footing in the beginning, but a federal appellate judge sided with her in 2018. The judge commented that the virtual play chips have value even though they don’t have any direct worth in monetary terms.
The new bills could protect companies like Big Fish from being classified as illegal gambling and bring back outstate operators back to Washington. The bill explicitly suggests that lawsuits may bring significant financial risk for video game development and force companies out of the state.