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US federal court approves Big Fish Washington settlement


A US federal court has approved a settlement agreed by Churchill Downs Incorporated, former owner of Big Fish Games, and its current owner Aristocrat Leisure, related to two class action suits against the social gaming studio.

After the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that Big Fish apps such as Big Fish Casino and Jackpot Magic Slots were a form of illegal gambling, the pair created a $155m settlement fund in May 2020 to refund money lost playing those games.

CDI contributed $124m, with a further $31m paid in by Aristocrat. Players that have lost money playing on Big Fish titles can reclaim funds from this pool.

However, this settlement still needed to be approved by the US Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington. Today, Aristocrat issued a statement announcing it had secured approval from the court.

The case began when Washington State resident Cheryl Kater filed suit against CDI in 2015. Having lost $1,000 playing its games, she argued its products could be considered illegal gambling under Washington law.

Another class action suit was then filed by Manasa Thimmegowda, who had lost $3,000 playing Big Fish games. These suits were later combined into a class action suit. 

Kater’s argument was initially rejected by the Western District of Washington court, but the Appeals Court determined that virtual chips “extended the privilege of playing”. This, it said, meant that they could be considered something of value.