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Justices hear compulsive gambling arguments

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State gaming regulations prohibit a compulsive gambler from even filing a lawsuit against a casino, a New Albany attorney told the Indiana Supreme Court today.

Justices are considering a case that asks whether casinos have a common law duty to protect compulsive gamblers from themselves, and whether casinos are required to refrain from trying to entice those people into their establishments. The case is Caesars Riverboat Casino LLC v. Genevieve M. Kephart, No. 31A01-0711-CV-530, and today's arguments follow a split Indiana Court of Appeals decision from earlier this year where the majority decided the gambler couldn't recover from a private negligence action against the riverboat casino. Judge Terry Crone dissented because he believed the common law duty should be imposed because the casino likely knew of her condition.

The Nashville, Tenn. woman had filed a private negligence claim against the Ohio River casino she'd visited in March 2006, when she lost $125,000 that had been borrowed from the casino in a single night. She claimed the casino knew about and took advantage of her compulsive gambling history, enticing her with free meals and drinks, hotel rooms, transportation, and entertainment to get her in to gamble.

In arguing before the state's highest court this morning, Caesars' attorney Gene Price from New Albany told justices that the state's extensive gaming regulation set up through the Indiana Gaming Commission provides the only relief Kephart is entitled to, and she shouldn't be allowed to proceed with her claim.

Kephart's attorney, Terry Noffsinger of Evansville, argued that private causes of action are not precluded by the state's regulatory scheme. He said the law is meant to protect those who are sick, and that this type of behavior shouldn't be considered "marketing" allowed by the state statute and gaming regulations.

Justice Robert D. Rucker wondered about how a new policy might go past the compulsive gambler to impact cases involving intoxicated gamblers, or even compulsive shoppers who buy too much at stores and then say the establishment should have known better. He and other justices asked about the comparisons to Indiana's dram shop law, which says that bartenders have a duty to not serve intoxicated patrons or alcoholics. They also wondered if the casino regulation would extend to food poisoning or a slip and fall, which Price said it wouldn't.

When Justice Brent Dickson asked about whether casinos had any duty to provide reasonable care to customers, Price responded," It has a duty to obey the regular framework, and there are steep fines associated with that. That's where the remedy lies here for Ms. Kephart."

The case is one of first impression nationally, as there is no existing caselaw resulting from compulsive gamblers who were victorious on claims that a casino wrongly targeted them, Noffsinger said in response to a question from Justice Rucker. One federal District court in New Jersey held this, but the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned it, Justice Rucker said.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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