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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "Gambler gets second shot in suit against Ind. casino"

Caesars Riverboat Casino. LLC v. Genevieve Kephart, which will be argued before the Supreme Court this Thursday, Nov. 12th, is the subject of a long story today by Grace Schneider of the Louisville Courier Journal. Some quotes:

Jenny Kephart said she remembers her night of gambling at Caesars Indiana in March 2006 for how she ended it — exhausted and staggering back to her room at sunrise after losing $125,000.

This week, the Tennessee woman who claims the casino took advantage of her blackjack addiction to win a chunk of her $1 million inheritance hopes to persuade the Indiana Supreme Court that she should be allowed to argue in court that Caesars knew of her weakness and lured her into losing the money.

The court is scheduled Thursday to review the case of Kephart, an unemployed suburban Nashville resident who still owes the $125,000 to the Harrison County riverboat, now renamed Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

Kephart, 54, contends she gambled away more than $900,000 during more than a year of lavish betting, making her a target for complimentary stays in luxury hotel suites, dinners at fine restaurants and limousine service offered only to high rollers like her.

The case is being closely watched by the casino industry and gaming law experts, in part because courts in several states have rejected arguments that casinos have a “duty of care” responsibility to prevent compulsive gamblers from giving in to their addiction.

Because casinos have overwhelmingly prevailed in those cases, the decision by the Indiana high court to hear Kephart’s case may signal a shift in philosophy, said Joseph M. Kelly, a law professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo and a gambling law authority who wrote about the Kephart case in a recent law review article.

“Generally, the Indiana Supreme Court wouldn’t grant review if it was simply going to rubber stamp what had been going in on prior cases,” Kelly said in a telephone interview. “So there’s something about (Kephart’s) petition for review that must have interested somebody there.” * * *

But Horseshoe’s lawyers have argued the casino doesn’t have to protect Kephart from herself and that she could have asked the gambling boat to ban her — but she didn’t.

Kephart declined to be interviewed last week. But in a brief statement relayed through her lawyer, Terry Noffsinger of Evansville, she said most people don’t understand how casinos operate because “they’re in a world of their own, making their own rules. I hope we get to court to expose and change these practices.” * * *

In March, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 for the casino. The majority said the riverboat isn’t legally obligated to protect Kephart from casino marketing and hosting and blamed Kephart for not cutting her ties to the casino in light of “her proclivity towards compulsive gambling.”

Still, even the majority judges — Paul D. Mathias and Carr Darden — wrote that they were “troubled” that the casino would allow Kephart to lose all the money, and they expressed sympathy for her because the casino can recoup triple losses.

Appeals Judge Terry Crone wrote a stinging dissent, calling the casino’s actions morally “repugnant.” Crone said the state failed to set high standards for casinos while reaping millions of dollars in financial gains from the industry. * * *

If the state Supreme Court rules in favor of Kephart, the case would return to Harrison Circuit, where Noffsinger said he hopes to show how the casino set its sights on Kephart and her money and that its actions were negligent. He said he’ll also ask the judges to consider whether Indiana law should be giving immunity to a business that takes advantage of a person known to be a compulsive gambler.

For more, here is a long list of earlier ILB entries, including this March 20 ILB summary of the Court of Appeals decision (2nd case).

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 8, 2009 10:53 AM
Posted to Upcoming Oral Arguments