My company run a popular monthly photo competition, we allow users to vote on the photos, with the top photo receiving a cash prize. We run the competition globally (essentially, all traffic is US, GB, CA and AU), but based in the UK.

We also have a virtual currency, gems, which can be used to buy bonus votes and unlock features on the site/app.

Gems are given away, as rewards for completing achievements, checking in daily, etc. We also sell the "gems" at one of five tiers.

We want to add some form of mini game (roulette probably), where we would give away the first spin away for free, then additional spins would be charged, gems and/or cash.

My questions:

  • Does this class as gambling? (I assume yes)
  • Would it differ if we removed the cash prize?
  • How do games, like 8 Ball Pool, get away with it (Spin & Win, Scratch)

Any advice on this would be greatly received.

  • 2
    I don't think the underlying legal question can be answered without specifying a country and state jurisdiction. The rules are different in Washington, Nevada, Tulalip, Colorado and Hawaii.
    – user6726
    Dec 11, 2016 at 22:14
  • Ah yes, thanks! I knew that I had missed something. Our traffic is pretty much all US, AU, CA and GB
    – Jim Neath
    Dec 12, 2016 at 11:20
  • 1
    I believe all of these questions are answered in existing gambling content.
    – feetwet
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:00

1 Answer 1


You have implicitly assumed that gambling is illegal - the illegality or otherwise of gambling is jurisdiction specific. Which jurisdiction? Well, wherever you are but also wherever the user that is gambling is too. Unfortunately, you either have to geographically discriminate your users or you have to comply with gambling laws everywhere your users could be. This seems like really hard work because it is.

gambling noun

  1. the activity or practice of playing at a game of chance for money or other stakes.

Clearly, what you propose is gambling.

Legal definitions of gambling may vary: for example under the New South Wales Unlawful Gambling Act 1998, "'gambling' includes gaming, betting or wagering" which includes the above definition and further broadens it.

If the "gems" have value, and it would appear that they do, then wagering them is gambling so removing the cash stakes does not make the game not gambling.

I cannot speculate as to how other games "get away with it" - perhaps they operate in full compliance with the relevant law or perhaps they don't and have just never been prosecuted. Robbing banks is against the law yet banks still get robbed: puzzling, no?

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