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Apple is getting sued for promoting illegal gambling

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This isn’t the first time Apple has been in serious hot water for allowing apps which offer illegal gambling onto its platform. While the company did run a mass sweep of the App Store back in 2018, taking down 25,000 Chinese gambling apps, it’s done little to prevent more of these harmful apps from sprouting up all over the platform since then.

In 2019, Apple came under fire for poor enforcement of its Enterprise Certificate program, thereby allowing explicit policy violations by apps offering real-money gambling and even hardcore porn. Last year, Karen Workman sued Apple for causing her to lose thousands of dollars on a single gambling app, and this January two more victims—having lost over $30,000 combined—also sued Apple in California.

Now, as noted by Apple Insider, a class-action lawsuit has been launched against the tech giant through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs are named Joshua McDonald and Michael Helsel, who have both lost money on gambling apps on the App Store. They are accusing Apple of enabling, promoting, and facilitating illegal gambling, while profiting off of the purchases made within such apps—essentially functioning as an unsanctioned casino.

The gambling apps under attack in this case are hosted by a particular developer, DoubleU Games Co., Ltd. The complaint states that its casino-style slot machines and table games “[constitute] illegal gambling pursuant to the law of [25] states,” states in which the lawsuit is seeking class-action status.

“On average,” the lawsuit says, “the Apple App Store drives 50% of all app installs. Of that, roughly 21% of installs come from users who discover and install apps through browsing the featured apps or sifting through app categories.” This means that Apple is knowingly featuring profitable gambling apps through its algorithm to make them more discoverable, and pushing them on its users. 

With the DoubleU casino apps in particular, users initially receive enough free “chips” or “coins” to get them started and hooked on the game. After their coins eventually run out, they are encouraged to buy more so they can keep going. Rather than playing for a chance to win actual money, however, users are simply playing for more chips to allow them to keep playing—which they will inevitably lose, and continue the money-grabbing cycle.

Apple is providing the software tools and promoting in-app integration with its own features to DoubleU and similar developers—essentially “contributing materially” to the illegality of the affair. For these reasons the plaintiffs believe there is enough evidence to force Apple to curb future damage done by DoubleU’s harmful gambling apps, and provide compensation to past victims.

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