AviaGames Accused of Using Bots Against Players in Skill Games Case

A proposed class action lawsuit against AviaGames accuses the company of using bots against human players on its purportedly peer-to-peer skill-based games. The accusation arises from claims made during the discovery phase of a separate patent lawsuit against AviaGames by its rival, Skillz. This new action on behalf of AviaGames’ customers argues that such use of bots in a purported skill game amounts to racketeering and conspiracy.

Filed last week in Northern California District Court, plaintiffs Andrew Pandolfi of Texas and Mandi Shawcroft of Idaho allege players are pitted against bots when playing Avia titles such as Bingo Tour on its Pocket7Games platform.

Avia, the brief explains, is a “leading provider of online games” where users “compete in games of skill against other real people for money.”

Collectively, the filing states users have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these games of “skill,” supposedly matched against other humans.

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. Instead of being games of skill as advertised, Avia’s games are manipulated games of chance that amount to an unapproved gambling enterprise.

As a result, the lawsuit seeks to “hold Defendants responsible for their deceptive practices” and, separately, the “racketeering gambling enterprise.”

Bot Allegations Surface Unexpectedly

Avia co-founders Vickie Chen and Ping Wang launched the game shop in 2017 in direct competition with Skillz, an early leader in skill gaming.

Ironically, the evidence backing the Avia class action came to light during the pre-trial phase of an ongoing patent lawsuit between Skillz and Avia. That case, now more than two years and 500 docket entries into litigation, has yet to move to trial.

However, at a recent patent case appearance, Skillz accused Avia of using “bots” to cheat players. Skillz said it learned of the alleged deception just before the discovery period closed and successfully petitioned for more time to review Avia’s source code.

Both Skillz and Avia offer online real-money skill gaming, where players compete for cash prizes, and operators take a cut of the entry fees.

Avia, Skillz, and similar companies argue their legitimacy based on the skill component of the games, which they say differentiates their products from “games of chance” under the legal definition of gambling.

In 2021, Skillz accused Avia of violating its patent in developing the Pocket7Games platform. That case still hasn’t reached the trial stage, but events that took place during discovery led to Skillz accusing Avia of pitting human players against AI bots under their control.

Attorney Christopher Campbell explained the issue to Judge Beth Freeman during a hearing in August on Skillz’ behalf.

Campbell said:

So, it all starts with how Avia represents itself to the outside world. They hold themselves out as a trusted platform [and] that they have no financial interest in the outcome of the cash games. But that’s all a lie, and we figured that out because we got, after the close-of-fact discovery, a slew of documents that show exactly what they are doing. They are using robots; they are cheating the public.

If proven, the bot allegations could impact the outcome of the patent case. However, the allegations alone are at the heart of the new lawsuit targeting Avia and its investors.

Suit Accuses Avia of Stacking Deck in Own Favor

In the filing, the Plaintiffs detail Avia’s claim that Pocket7Games “guarantees [its] players a fair, high-quality gaming experience.”

The brief notes how Avia says it uses a “complex algorithm” to “assess and match” players by ability and create a “fair gaming environment.” Additionally, it says Avia claims its “sophisticated algorithm” is monitored and updated consistently to prevent players from cheating.

The company, notes the Plaintiffs, says it “promote[s] skill-based competitions that are legal in most jurisdictions.” Additionally, Avia says its games are designed to reward players’ skills and abilities, in contrast to gambling’s reliance on chance.

But, according to the brief, it’s not players who’ve been gaming the system.

From the filing:

Recently uncovered evidence indicates that Avia has perpetuated a lie on its customers and that players are actually playing against computer bots in a stacked game of chance.

Litigation involving a competitor has revealed evidence “regarding AviaGames’ alleged use of bots to purportedly ‘cheat the public’.”  Namely, a “slew of documents” shows “that AviaGames is matching gamers with robots to rig the games.”

According to statements made in open court and describing the content of Avia internal documents, “every cash game offered by AviaGames in the U.S.” has a “guide with a robot” that “guarantees the winning rate in favor of AviaGames against its customers.

As a result of Avia’s deception, the brief says Plaintiffs Pandolfi and Shawcroft lost thousands of dollars. According to the document, Pandolfi, in particular, would not have played Avia’s games knowing they were “populated or controlled” with bots.

Users Allegedly Deceived by Fraudulent Conspiracy

Avia, the lawsuit contends, advertises itself as a legitimate peer-to-peer gaming company. However, plaintiffs argue that the evidence shows that Avia deceptively, and to its advantage, populates its games with bots. This, the filing follows, effectively renders Avia’s business illegal.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims Avia investors, ACME and Galaxy Digital, knowingly funded Avia’s shady business activities, creating a criminal conspiracy under federal racketeering laws.

The filing levels five counts against Avia, including single violations under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLR) and three against the company and its co-defendants under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

From the legal text:

Instead of revolutionizing the gaming industry by legitimate means, Avia created— and was funded—to provide games of chance for money without complying with the applicable laws.

Driven by the purpose of increasing the attractiveness of the games, recruiting more paying users, and making them spend significant financial resources in belief that they are competing against other real, human players, Avia and the RICO Defendants have been fraudulently misleading and deceiving consumers as to the true nature of Avia’s games.

As opposed to fair skill-based games, the games have been nothing more than illegal games of chance provided in contravention of California illegal gambling statutes (the “Fraudulent Illegal Gambling Enterprise”). And, the Fraudulent Illegal Gambling Enterprise has been facilitated by the use of mail/wires.

Avia Denies Wrongdoing

The lawsuit argues that Avia and its RICO co-defendants’ conduct “directly and proximately caused injuries and damages.” As a result, plaintiffs can request three times the actual damages plus any other relief or costs deemed reasonable by the court under applicable law.

In short, Avia, its co-founders (Ms. Chen and Ms. Wang), and the RICO Investors duped Plaintiffs into wagering real money in games of chance, which could be easily manipulated, instead of competing in games of skill as advertised. Plaintiffs spent money to play Avia’s games without the knowledge that the games were skewed in Avia’s favor and full of bots. Plaintiffs suffered monetary harm as a result.

This Complaint asserts various claims to hold Avia and other Defendants accountable for their misrepresentations to consumers and stop them from continuing to exploit Avia’s games users.

AviaGames was unreachable for comment on this story.

However, a spokesperson for the company previously provided a written statement to the New York Post denying any wrongdoing.

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.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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