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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "Supreme Court to Hear Case of Compulsive Gambler Who Says She Was Lured Into a Casino"

The case of Caesars Riverboat Casino, LLC v. Genevieve M. Kephart, (see ILB summary here - 2nd case), granted transfer Sept. 11th by the Supreme Court, is the subject today of a lengthy ABC NEWS story by Emily Friedman. Some quotes:

Jenny Kephart admits that she's a pathological gambler who lost the $125,000 that an Indiana casino advanced her during one unlucky night at a blackjack table. But in a two-year court battle, she has argued that she doesn't owe the casino a dime because its employees should have denied such an addicted gambler access to the card table.

The Indiana Supreme Court is scheduled to decide next month if she has to repay the casino, with potential legal implications that could stretch far beyond the borders of Indiana.

On March 18, 2006, Kephart went to Ceasars Riverboat Casino, now the Horseshoe Southern Indiana casino, where she embarked on a gambling spree and, subsequently, lost $125,000 in credit provided by Caesars, according to court documents. That same night, Kephart had already lost at least $8,000 of her own money, according to her attorney.

Ceasars and Horseshoe are owned by the same corporation, Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment.

The following year, when the casino sued her for failing to repay the quarter-million dollars, Kephart filed a countersuit, claiming she was a "pathological gambler" and that the casino knowingly "took advantage of her to enrich itself."

The case eventually ended up in the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the casino in March, saying that Kephart's lost money was an "injury she chose to risk incurring."

Kephart's lawyer, who filed a petition to the Indiana Supreme Court, told ABCNews.com that he's pleased he'll get another chance to argue how he says the casino wronged his client.

"This casino intentionally, knowing she was a compulsive gambler, went after her to get her to gamble," said Kephart's attorney, Terry Noffsinger. "And, of course, the odds are in the favor of the house and she lost a lot of money." * * *

Ed Feigenbaum, the editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, and a lawyer, said that the decision by the Supreme Court to take on the Kephart case is telling and could have ramifications that reach far beyond Indiana's borders.

"In Indiana, there isn't a great deal of law and certainly, not real, black-letter law on this particular topic," said Feigenbaum, who has no connection to the Kephart case. "We've only had casinos since the beginning of the 1990s, so we're still experiencing a lot of the general civil litigation that follows these types of things."

Feigenbaum said he has rarely seen the appellate judges be as outspoken in their court opinions as they were in the Kephart case and that might be the reason the Supreme Court starting paying attention, he said.

Even in the majority opinion, which was 2-1, one of the judges expressed concerns about the casino's willingness to extend credit to Kephart.

The outcome of the Kephart case could also influence gambling law elsewhere, said Feigenbaum, who added that he couldn't think of another case in which a U.S. court has ruled in favor of the compulsive gambler.

"This is a court that has gained some notice in recent years for being well-reasoned," he said. "This is a ruling that, one way or another, could be looked at by other courts and picked up upon."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 17, 2009 09:01 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Transfer Lists | Upcoming Oral Arguments