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Compliance Updates

Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP and Kaliel PLLC: New Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Fortnite’s Sale of Loot Boxes

George Miller

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Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP and Kaliel PLLC: New Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Fortnite’s Sale of Loot Boxes
Image Source: theverge.com
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP and Kaliel PLLC filed suit, Altes v. Epic Games, Inc. Case No. 2:19-cv-01488 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on February 28, 2019, alleging that Defendant Epic Games, Inc., the developer of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, uses predatory tactics to lure players into making in-game purchases. Specifically, the Complaint challenges Fortnite’s unfair and deceptive marketing of its “loot boxes,” known as “Llamas,” in Fortnite Save the World.

The Complaint, which is filed as a class action on behalf of California consumers, is brought by Mr. Altes on behalf of his child, a minor. Melissa Weiner, an attorney representing Mr. Altes and his son, commented, “Fortnite’s conduct with respect to loot boxes is especially egregious because so many of its players are kids.”

A “loot box” is a virtual pack of goods which contains a randomized selection of virtual items to be used in a game. Loot boxes can contain everything from purely cosmetic items—known as “skins,” which offer no competitive advantages—to a variety of items such as “power ups” that can dramatically alter a player’s chance of progressing in the game. The loot boxes in Fortnite Save the World, known as Llamas, are of the latter variety, offering players a chance to advance in the game.

Recently, loot boxes have generated significant controversy, with some countries, such as Belgium, Netherlands, and Australia finding that they constitute illegal gambling, based on the fact that consumers pay real currency for potential “loot” that is not guaranteed.

Other countries, including China and Korea, have recently issued regulations requiring games with loot boxes to disclose the odds of winning loot box contents.  In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has vowed to investigate the use of loot boxes in video games, but so far, has taken no action.

Mr. Altes’ Complaint, which was filed in federal court in California, alleges that through both misrepresentations and omissions, Epic markets loot box Llamas in Fortnite Save the World as highly likely to contain valuable loot, but in reality, the Llamas do not contain the loot expected by the reasonable consumer, and especially by the reasonable minor. The Complaint alleges that Epic fails to disclose that the odds of receiving valuable loot are next to nothing, and, if players knew the actual odds of receiving the items they desired, they would not purchase the Llamas.

Sophia Gold, another attorney representing Mr. Altes, commented, “In nearly every other game of chance, the odds of winning are disclosed.”

Mr. Altes, who brings his claims under California consumer protection law, seeks both an injunction and a class-wide refund.

Compliance Updates

UK House of Lords Calls for Urgent Regulation of Loot Boxes

Niji Narayan

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UK House of Lords Calls for Urgent Regulation of Loot Boxes
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

The House of Lords Gambling Committee has urged the UK government to classify video game loot boxes as “games of chance.” The recommendation came as part of a wide-ranging report in which the committee suggested a number of changes to the gaming industry.

“If a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be regulated as gambling. The government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation,” the report says.

Loot boxes have long been controversial in video games. They offer players a chance at a randomised reward when opened. To further complicate matters, boxes can often be bought for real money, and the rewards can sometimes be traded.

Lord Grade, chairman of the committee, said that lots of other countries have already started to regulate loot boxes because “they can see the dangers” which is teaching “kids to gamble.”

He said the Gambling Act was “way behind what was actually happening in the market” but he added that the “overwhelming majority” of the report’s recommendations “could be enacted today” as they do not require legislation.

The Lords report is wide-ranging, covering the entire gambling industry, but focuses in part on new forms of gambling, and those targeted towards children.

“There is academic research which proves that there is a connection, though not necessarily a causal link, between loot box spending and problem gambling,” it says.

The Lords report concludes that ministers should make new regulations which explicitly state that loot boxes are games of chance. It also says the same definition should apply to any other in-game item paid for with real money, such as FIFA player packs.

The government told the committee that its planned future review of the Gambling Act would focus on loot boxes. But the Lords report warns: “This issue requires more urgent attention.”

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Compliance Updates

Norway to Consolidate Gambling Laws Under Single Legislative Banner

Niji Narayan

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Norway to Consolidate Gambling Laws Under Single Legislative Banner
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The Norwegian Ministry of Culture is going to launch a consultation on unifying the country’s gambling laws into a single piece of legislation. The new bill would bring together the existing Lottery Act, Gambling Act and Totalisator Act under a group of gambling laws that would apply to the entire Norwegian market.

The consultation will run through to September 29, with a range of stakeholders invited to give their opinions on the proposals.

“The purpose of the bill is to improve responsible gaming [standards] and to prevent problems and other negative consequences of gambling,” Minister of Culture and Gender Equality Abid Q. Raja said.

“We still want voluntary and non-profit purposes to benefit from the profits that gambling generate, and the bill facilitates this, but at the same time also demands more efficiencies from Norsk Tipping,” Raja added.

Among the key proposals in the bill are for Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto to retain the exclusive right to offer gambling. Both operators would be subject to strict state control, including the government having a final say on board appointments to each business.

The bill would also have the Ministry of Culture assume responsibility for all elements of the gambling market, including rules governing the horse racing sector, which is currently overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

The country’s regulator Lotteritilsynet would also be given more power to ensure that gambling is taking place legally. This would include ordering internet service providers to notify users that when they see marketing from offshore operators, this is both unlicensed and illegal.

Aside from traditional gambling, the consultation will also gather opinions on loot boxes in video games and whether these features should be covered by the new set of laws.

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Compliance Updates

GiG Secures Sports Betting License in Colorado for WSN.com

George Miller

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GiG Secures Sports Betting License in Colorado for WSN.com
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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has further expanded its presence in the United States after receiving a Vendor Minor sports betting license for its flagship affiliate site WSN.com from the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission.

GiG Media is now active in seven US states through its flagship US-facing sports betting website World Sports Network (WSN.com).

GiG was granted its first affiliate vendor registration in January 2019 for the state of New Jersey. This was followed in December 2019 by a certificate of registration for sports wagering in Indiana. In February 2020, GiG secured authorisation from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to provide affiliate services in the Keystone State.

Jonas Warrer, Managing Director of GiG Media, said “We are delighted to further strengthen our position in the US with this latest license approval. WSN.com continues to gain momentum in the US market and Colorado provides us with an even greater opportunity to convert visitors into players as legal sportsbooks begin accepting customers in the state.”

Colorado became the 18th state to legalise online sports betting in the US in May 2020. The online sports betting market in the centennial state is estimated to reach approximately $200 million in annual revenue at saturation, according to H2 Gambling Capital.

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