May 13, 2008
Catching Up on the Deal or No Deal Gambling Lawsuits
Posted by Christine Hurt

This semester has been fairly busy, so I have not been following gambling issues in the news as well as I would like.  For example, viewers of Deal or No Deal have filed lawsuits in multiple states claiming that the "Lucky Case" game is an illegal gambling game.  In some states, losers may file civil suits to recover gambling losses in illegal games.  The Lucky Case game allows at home viewers to choose which of five or so cases a prize is in (like a shell game) for money.  Viewers text in their guesses.  Texting charges apply, as well as a $.99 fee, which seems to go to NBC.  At least here in Illinois, that sounds like gambling.  However, the Georgia Supreme Court, in answering a question certified to it by the federal district court in Georgia, said that the game did not fall under its definition of "gambling contract," and so the viewers could not sue for losses.  The court left open the question whether the Lucky Case game is a lottery, however.  Fortunately or unfortunately, viewers do not have the ability to sue for losses in illegal lotteries, so unless the State of Georgia wants to prosecute NBC, the game could go on.  (In Illinois, gambling losses must be at least $50 for losers to have the right to sue for recovery.)  Because these laws vary from state to state, cases are still pending in other states, including California.

NBC seems to understand what is going on.  On the website, the Lucky Case game is listed as taking a "short break."  Another game, where viewers text in votes for the next Deal or No Deal model for a chance at a $10k price, NBC seems to be covering all bases.  First, in consideration of the $1 texting fee, voters receive Deal or No Deal computer wallpaper and a chance to win the $10k.  Second, if the viewer doesn't want to vote, they can merely enter for a chance to win the $10k for free.  By tying the $1 to the right to vote and the wallpaper, the game does not seem to require gambling consideration. 

What I thought was interesting about this Law.com story on the Georgia case was its disdain for the "colonial era Georgia statute."  I guess all old statutes are obsolete, like those for murder, burglary, etc.

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