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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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