Sunday, May 15, 2011
Courts - "U.S. courts say casinos have no 'duty of care' responsibility to halt compulsive gamblers from playing"
This lengthy article today by John Mangels of the Cleveland Plain Dealer references, among others, two Indiana decisions, Williams v. Aztar (7th Cir., 2003), and Caesars v. Kephart (Ind. 2010) (although today's story quotes from Judge Crone's dissent in the Court of Appeals opinion). From the story:
In light of the court decisions, "the best thing a casino could do in terms of return on their money may be to somehow get a list of compulsive gamblers and invite them to come," because they spend the most, said Indiana attorney Terry Noffsinger, who represented Williams and who last year lost [Kephart,] another high-profile duty-of-care case. "How can that be right?" * * *
"The elephant in the room is the fact that the state of Indiana gets $350 million a year from gaming taxes," Noffsinger said.
That potential bias bothered Indiana Appeals Court Judge Terry Crone, too. "It seems clear that both the casinos and the state share a common interest in gamblers -- pathological and otherwise -- losing as much money as quickly as possible," Crone wrote in his dissent of the court's verdict favoring the casino in the Kephart case.
Public policy to protect the vulnerable, as well as the riverboat's "repugnant" pursuit of Kephart to gamble, warrant the establishment of a duty of care by casinos toward pathological gamblers, Crone concluded.
But his appellate court colleagues disagreed, ruling that there's nothing wrong with a casino enticing an addicted gambler, because "common sense tells a reasonable person and all gamblers, compulsive or otherwise, that the house usually wins." The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the decision.
The Hoosier cases have helped set the tone in other U.S. jurisdictions for casino victories in duty-of-care cases. Internationally, the outcomes have been similar, although countries whose governments operate casinos -- especially Canada -- have shown increasing sensitivity to the issue of who's responsible for pathological gambling.