Amazon Files for Social Casino Lawsuit Dismissal, Tech Giants Embroiled
Last year, Amazon.com found itself at the center of a contentious legal battle over its alleged role in profiting from so-called social casino apps.
Lawyers for the online retail and tech giant have this week asked the Western District of Washington court to throw the case out. Or, at least, issue a stay (a legal pause) on the case, until a similar case involving Apple, Google, Meta, and Facebook plays out at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lawsuit against Amazon accuses the company of direct involvement with more than 30 such contentious apps that offer pay-to-play, casino-style slots games for fun, usually with no cash prizes involved.
The class action suit, filed by Steve Horn of Nevada, hinges on the argument that Amazon, through its app store, was complicit in facilitating what essentially amounts to illegal gambling in Washington State, where the lawsuit was fired.
Despite being a resident of Nevada, the plaintiff and his lawyers filed the suit in Washington State. Lawmakers in The Evergreen State, where Amazon is based, have previously taken a hard line on the social casinos issue.
Horn’s lawyers say he became addicted to these “illegal slots” and made more than 320 financial transactions through the games downloaded from Amazon’s Apps & Games Store.
This lawsuit aims to represent a prospective class of “tens of thousands of consumers,” and could involve hundreds of millions of dollars or more in alleged damages.
Related: Our reviews of the best and actual real money online casinos in Washington State
The crux of Amazon’s defense lies in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. This provision, the company’s lawyers argue, makes it immune to legal claims over third-party content hosted on online platforms.
Amazon argues that the application of this federal law, which has been highly debated in recent years, should see the lawsuit thrown out.
Its legal team has also been proactive in preparing for any possibility. Should the case not be thrown out, they have asked for a stay until a California court decides on a similar case involving Amazon’s fellow tech giants.
Amazon says the court’s decision will be impacted by the result of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in lawsuits against Google, Apple, and Meta’s Facebook.
Amazon believes that the outcome of these consolidated appeals could either result in a case dismissal or significantly simplify the issue of CDA immunity.
The Broader Implications
The litigation against Amazon is not isolated. It’s part of a broader legal examination of the role of tech platforms in processing payments for in-app transactions. That’s particularly in the context of casino-style apps that do not offer cash prizes, but allow users to buy digital chips to continue playing.
A 2018 ruling by the 9th Circuit stated that such casino-style apps violate Washington state gambling law, setting a precedent that has led many operators settling out of court for hefty sums.
The outcome of these latest lawsuits against the top U.S. tech giants could set further significant legal precedent over Section 230. Many other areas of the digital economy may also be affected, as well as having the potential to drastically impact the social casino business.