Game Show Network Sued in Latest Free-to-Play Action

Game Show Network Sued in Latest Washington State "Free to Play" Action

GSN Casino offerings are the latest target of class-action lawsuits against online social-gaming companies that provide “free to play” casino games.

The latest in a series of Washington State legal actions pitting consumers against the providers of online “free to play” casino games that also sell additional coin packages has targeted the United States’ Game Show Network (GSN) as a defendant. GSN offers its “GSN Casino” online games across several online platforms, all of which are freely available to State of Washington residents.

The case was filed on behalf of Washington resident Elise Bell and possibly “tens of thousands” of the state’s other consumers. It’s at least the sixth such class-action lawsuit filed by plaintiff’s counsel, the Seattle- and Tacoma-based law firm of Tousley Brain Stephens, LLC.

The first four of those actions targeted Huuuge Games, DoubleDown Interactive, High 5 Games, Scientific Games, the corporate parents of prominent social-casino gaming sites, while the fifth named Playtika, one of the leading corporate players in the niche via its Slotomania offering. This sixth class-action filing brings another high-profile corporate defendant into the sphere of the Washington-based actions.

Case specifics

Tousley Brain Stephens filed the action on Wednesday, May 16, in the Tacoma-based US District Court for the Western District of Washington. Bell, the plaintiff, is not identified further than as a “natural person” living somewhere in the state.

According to the filing, Bell signed up at GSN Casino in 2016 and purchased roughly $700 in coin packages over a period of approximately two years. These repeated micro-transactions, which could cost as little as $1.99, provided players with coins over and above other no-fee coin giveaways offered periodically by GSN Casino.

The coins were not redeemable in any way, but nonetheless, as with the other Tousley Brain Stephens lawsuits, are alleged to be a form of illegal gambling forbidden under State of Washington law. As with the other class-action lawsuits filed by Tousley Brain Stephens in recent weeks, the filings attempt to define the tokens as a “thing of value”, despite their non-redeemability.

“The ‘tokens’ Plaintiff and the Class had the chance of winning in Defendant’s online gambling games,” the complaint offers, are “‘thing[s] of value’ under Washington law because they are credits that involve the extension of entertainment and a privilege of playing a game without charge.”

The complaint claims three separate causes of action against Game Show Network, including violations of Washington’s “Recovery of money lost at gambling” statute, violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, and unjust enrichment. The suit seeks trebled damages on behalf of all potential class members, plus court costs and attorneys’ fees.

The complaint’s “prayer for relief” also asks that the complaint be certified as a class-action complaint, and includes a demand for a jury trial. The filing also seeks an enjoinder against GSN to prevent the company from offering its GSN Casino to State of Washington residents.

Plaintiff’s counsel continues online-gaming targeting

The six class-action lawsuits filed by Tousley Brain Stephens against the social-casino providers aren’t as new a development in the niche as initially reported. The Washington-based firm was also one of several plaintiffs-side firms involved in the 2016 class-action lawsuits targeting esports game publishers such as Valve Corp., the maker of popular online game CounterStrike: Global Offensive, or CS:GO

Tousley Brain Stephens was one of three firms across the country that sued both Valve Corp. and a number of third-party providers of “skins”, the in-game prizes that were sold – often to underage CS:GO players and fans – and then used as a gambling medium of sorts within the CS:GO games.

Tousley Brain Stephens’ class-action effort targeting Valve Corp. was unsuccessful, however, with that case being dismissed by a federal judge in late 2016. That action employed parallel arguments to those offered in the current social-casino actions, arguing that Valve Corp. helped create an “illegal online gambling ecosystem” through use of Valve’s Steam Marketplace platform, where skins were purchased and traded.

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