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Casino app maker AviaGames accused of pitting players against bots

AviaGames — the Silicon Valley-based developer of popular casino apps like Bingo Tour and Solitaire Clash — has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit that claims users were duped into playing against bots instead of similarly skilled human players.

“Avia users collectively have wagered hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in these games of ‘skill’ against what Avia says are other human users,” according to the suit filed on Friday in the US Northern District of California.

“However, as it turns out, the entire premise of Avia’s platform is false: Instead of competing against real people, Avia’s computers populate and/or control the games with computer “bots” that can impact or control the outcome of the games,” the suit alleged.

The stakes are high as Avia’s offerings are among the most popular apps in Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play store, according to the suit.

As of the suit’s filing on Friday, Avia’s Solitaire Clash, Bingo Clash and Bingo Tour were the Nos. 2, 4 and 7 apps in the casino category, according to the suit.

“Avia’s games are manipulated games of chance that amount to an unapproved gambling enterprise,” the suit claimed.

The suit seeking class-action status was filed by Andrew Pandolfi of Texas, who estimates he lost thousands of dollars playing Avia’s games; and Mandi Shawcroft of Idaho, who says she lost hundreds.

It includes all other impacted players who participated in games using the Pocket7Games app, which can be used to access multiple casino games.

AviaGames, a private company based in Mountain View, Calif. that most recently raised cash from investors in 2021 in a deal valuing the company at $620 million.

Sensor Tower says it has 3.5 million monthly active users.

Judge Beth Labson Freeman said evidence appears to suggest that Pocket7 is using bots.

AviaGames did not return calls about the class-action suit.

This suit by players follows lawsuits filed in 2021 by Avia rival Skillz Games for patent and copyright infringement against AviaGames that uncovered the alleged bot use and are still making their way through the courts.

Skillz alleges AviaGames is able to match up players for games quickly because they are actually bots, enabling it to grab market share from Skillz, whose customers can wait up to 15 minutes for an opposing human player.

The Skillz suits against AviaGames turned upside down in late May when at the end of discovery AviaGames coughed up nearly 20,000 documents covering internal communications in Chinese, court filings said. Skillz translated them and allegedly found evidence that AviaGames used bots.

In the Skillz patent case, US District Judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled in September that internal communications between AviaGames executives revealed in the trove of discovery documents “appear to suggest that AviaGames uses bots in its Pocket7Games platform.”

AviaGames Founder and CEO Vickie Chen said in a deposition that Pocket7 does not use bots in its games.

Skillz has been seeking communications between AviaGames and its lawyers about bots, and Judge Freeman ruled last week that Skillz has met the standard to see some of the communications which AviaGames was required to turn over by Friday, according to court filings.

New York City Malpractice Attorney Andrew Lavoott Bluestone, who is not involved in the AviaGames cases, said it is very rare a plaintiff gets a judge to give it the right to see attorney-client communications under the act.

“The judge [who reviews the privileged information first] has to find that there is probable cause a crime or fraud has been committed.”

If a defendant is asking how to protect themselves against charges of a crime or fraud it is protected attorney-client communications. But the judge can break that seal if they see instead a conversation was about the furtherance of a fraud or crime that had not yet been committed.

“They need to see that the defendant asked for advice on how not to get caught.”

Pocket7 players may not have a real chance of winning if they are playing bots.

Asked last month about allegations that the company’s apps use bots, an AviaGames spokeswoman responded with a written statement.

“The claims against AviaGames are baseless and the company is focusing its attention on supporting our diverse, growing, and very satisfied gamer community and addressing these false assertions at the appropriate time and place in legal proceedings, in which we are confident we will prevail.”

“While we are unable to comment on the details of ongoing litigation at this time, the accusations presented are unsubstantiated and AviaGames is looking forward to refuting these unwarranted and baseless charges at trial.”

AviaGames raised money in August 2021 at a $620 million valuation.

“AviaGames stands behind its IP, unique gaming technology, the design of its games, and the integrity of its executive team. Avia is the only skill-based gaming publisher offering one seamless, all-in-one platform that delivers an accessible, reliable, and high-quality mobile gaming experience for all its players,” the spokeswoman said.

Some players have long suspected the games are rigged. There is a Pocket7Games/AviaGames = Scam Facebook group.

“Because Pocket7Games blocks people who speak honestly about the fraudulent manner in which they operate, it seemed necessary to create a group to hold them to account for their actions and to warn others,” group organizer Caitlin Cohen said on Facebook.

“It’s absolutely rigged. After initial wins to fool you, you’ll be placed in winning or losing slots AFTER you’ve gotten your score; they choose who wins in group games AND 1 on 1 games,” Gretchen Woods said in March on Quora. “Sometimes you simply see a generic player you’re matched up with. That’s a sign they’re manipulating the outcome.”

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