Publication Details

Maryland Video Gamers’ Virtual Gambling Claims are Real World Loser

Mar 31, 2017 | Posted by James P. Leonard | Topic(s): Class Actions

A class action alleging gamers participating in Game of War: Fire Age suffered illegal gambling losses was dismissed by the district court in Maryland—and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the ruling.  In Mia Mason v. Machine Zone Inc. (case number 15-2469, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit), Plaintiff alleged that she—and thousands of other players—lost money while spinning a virtual wheel within the only game, with the potential to win virtual prizes. 

Players of the game can “purchase virtual ‘gold,’ at prices ranging from $4.99 for 1,200 pieces of virtual gold, to $99.99 for 20,000 pieces of virtual gold.  Players can use the virtual gold they have accumulated to improve their virtual towns and to progress more quickly in the game.”  Players can also spin a “virtual wheel” to obtain items beneficial to success within the game. 

Plaintiff sued on behalf of the class alleging that by participating she lost money by playing an illegal gaming device.  Both the district court and court of appeals pointed out that, whether players “won” or “lost” virtual items while spinning the wheel—the makers of the game kept their money, either way.

Since there was no secondary market for items won during the game, and since there was no allegation that Plaintiff had tried to “sell” her account to another player, she had not lost any actual money—a condition for liability under the loss prevention statute.  Since Plaintiff had not lost money, the statute was not violated.

However, the ruling seems to indicate that if a player was part of a secondary market for in-game items or if a player had to sell their account as a loss—such a claim may indeed survive—at least past the motion to dismiss phase.