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Casino wins compulsive gambling appeal

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Casinos don't have a common law duty to protect compulsive gamblers from themselves, and aren't required to refrain from trying to entice those people into their establishments, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today in a matter of first impression.

In a 2-1 decision in Caesars Riverboat Casino v. Genevieve M. Kephart, No. 31A01-0711-CV-530, the majority decided that a Tennessee woman couldn't recover from a private negligence action against the southern Indiana riverboat casino she'd visited in March 2006. While at the casino that had enticed her with a free hotel room, drinks, and meals, Kephart lost in a single evening $125,000 that she had borrowed from the casino. Six counter checks were returned for insufficient funds and Caesars later sued to recover that money and treble damages. But Kephart filed a counter-claim alleging that Caesars took advantage of her condition as a pathological gambler, and that it shouldn't have offered her the enticements in the first place and was responsible for damaging her quality of life in order to unjustly enrich itself.

This decision reverses a ruling from Harrison Circuit Judge H. Lloyd Whitis, who'd denied Caesars' motion and appeals to dismiss the counter-claim based on its legal sufficiency. Judge Paul Mathias authored the 17-page majority opinion with a concurrence from Judge Carr Darden, while Judge Terry Crone wrote his own 11-page dissent.

The majority analogized this situation to that of a compulsive shopper, noting that department stores have no common law duty to refuse sales or services to someone known to be a compulsive shopper. Judges also found that marketing to potential patrons isn't reckless and that Kephart's own behavior and foreknowledge of possible risks in going to the casino to gamble tipped the balance in the casino's favor.

"While Caesar's actions in allowing her to write six checks totaling $125,000 are extremely concerning and should be examined.... Kephart has a responsibility to protect herself from her own proclivities and not rely on the casino to bear sole responsibility for her actions," the majority wrote. "One may argue that the statutory framework does not provide enough protections for compulsive gamblers, but that argument is more properly addressed to the (Indiana Gaming) Commission or to the General Assembly."

Judge Crone disagreed, writing in his own opinion that a common law duty should be imposed because of the casino's conduct in luring her to the casino with freebies. As it likely knew about her condition, the casino could have easily excluded Kephart from any direct marketing efforts and from the casino itself because of a statutory voluntary exclusion program described in Indiana Code Section 4-35-4-2, the judge determined. But the casino didn't do those things.

"One wonders if Indiana's legislators - and, more importantly, their constituents - have any qualms about balancing the State's budget on the backs of gamblers, especially those who are least able to resist and/or afford gambling," he wrote. "In my view, all three factors militate in favor of imposing a duty on Caesars to refrain from enticing to its casino known pathological gamblers who have not requested that they be removed from the casino's direct marketing list or excluded from the casino. To hold otherwise would be to conclude that there is no level below which a casino (and thus the State of Indiana) may not go in enticing patrons and encouraging their reckless behavior. I believe that Hoosiers would expect more from their government and the businesses that operate here."

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  1. Welcome to Hendricks County where local and state statutes (especially Indiana Class C misdemeanors) are given a higher consideration than Federal statues and active duty military call-ups.

  2. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  3. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  4. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  5. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

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