US court approves 'social casino' $415 million class settlement

FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the ticker symbol for International Game Technology PLC, (IGT) at the post where it is traded following it's launch on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 7, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday approved a $415 million class-action settlement resolving claims that online gaming companies DoubleDown Interactive LLC and International Game Technology PLC violated Washington state gambling laws and consumer protection provisions.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle federal court called the resolution "fair, reasonable, and adequate." He issued his final approval order after a hearing in the case, concluding more than four years of litigation.

Online consumers alleged "social casino" games developed by the defendants "constitute unlawful gambling under Washington's gambling laws." The settlement was the latest in a series of related cases.

International Game Technology, based in the U.K., and DoubleDown have denied any liability. They argued that the plaintiffs' claims "rest on novel and untested interpretations of Washington's gambling laws."

The games are free to play, but users pay for additional chips. The lawsuit said consumers wager to acquire more chips that they otherwise would need to buy.

Tens of thousands of class members "purchased and lost chips" by wagering at DoubleDown Casino, the plaintiffs' lawyers alleged. The class attorneys argued users were entitled to pursue their losses under a Washington state law.

DoubleDown and its lawyers on Friday did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Lawyers for International Game Technology did not immediately respond to a similar request.

Lasnik said seven class members opted out of the settlement, but there were no formal objections to the deal.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Todd Logan at Edelson, the firm that was leading the case, on Friday said the firm's social-casino litigation overall has led to $651 million for clients and class members.

Logan said in the latest settlement "many class members stand to receive, individually, hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Lasnik awarded nearly $121.5 million in legal fees to lead class attorneys at Chicago-based Edelson.

Lasnik's fee award amounted to about 29% of the settlement fund. The plaintiffs' lawyers had said they would seek no more than 30% for fees.

The litigation was "risky, novel, and hard-fought," Lasnik said in his order, and so he approved a request for fees that went beyond a 25% benchmark in Washington and other states comprising the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case is Benson et al v. DoubleDown Interactive LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:18-cv-00525-RSL.

For Benson: Jay Edelson, Rafey Balabanian and other lawyers from Edelson; Cecily Jordan of Tousley Brain Stephens

For DoubleDown: Jaime Drozd Allen of Davis Wright Tremaine

For International Game Technology: Lauren Case of Duane Morris, and Adam Pankratz of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Leigh Jones)

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