COA rules against card counter banned from Hoosier Park casino

A man who has been banned from numerous casinos because he counts cards when gambling lost his lawsuit against Hoosier Park and the Indiana Gaming Commission after his arrest for trespassing at the Anderson casino.

Thomas P. Donovan is an “advantage player” who makes money at casinos by counting cards in blackjack or playing video poker games that have a near 100 percent return. In fact, his ban from the Grand Victoria Casino was affirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2010.

This card counting practice also led to his being banned from Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and its various off-track betting facilities in the state in 2011.

He received a letter from Hoosier Park, addressed to Thomas T. Donovan, letting him know of his two-year eviction period and he would be subject to arrest for trespass if he returned.

He signed the certified mail receipt, but played at the casino twice unnoticed by using someone else’s “Player’s Club” card. The casino security team realized this and when Donovan came in a third time with the card, he was confronted by Hoosier Park security and Indiana Gaming Commission agents.

As Donovan was leaving, Agent Jeremy Hosier approached him and asked to speak about trespassing, but Donovan said he had a right to leave. Hosier blocked the exit door and told him he was being arrested, which led to a scuffle among the security employees and agents in trying to handcuff Donovan.

Donovan was convicted of Class B misdemeanor disorderly conduct and entered into a pretrial diversion agreement in August 2012. Later that year, he sued Hoosier Park and its entities and employees involved and the Indiana Gaming Commission and its agents involved, claiming false imprisonment, wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and battery. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants, leading to this appeal.

The appellate court affirmed that Donovan was properly evicted from Hoosier Park, as many of his tort claims are predicated on his assumption that he was not. Donovan argued that Hoosier Park violated statute in the letter sent to him, but Judge Melissa May pointed out that Hoosier Park is answerable to the IGC, not Donovan, for any violation. Donovan should have petitioned the IGC for a hearing if he wanted to challenge the letter sent to him by Hoosier Park.

The IGC agents had probable cause to arrest Donovan based on his trespassing, the judges affirmed. The judges also upheld that Donovan’s remaining claims of abuse of process, malicious prosecution and battery against the IGC defendants are barred by statutory immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act as the agents were acting within the scope of their employment.  

The COA also rejected Donovan’s argument related to the Hoosier Park employees, finding the designated evidence — surveillance video from the arrest — shows the IGC agents used reasonable force to arrest him.  

The case is Thomas P. Donovan v. Hoosier Park, LLC d/b/a Hoosier Park, Racing & Casino, Centaur, Inc., Hoosier Park, L.P., Centaur Holdings, LLC, and Terrance Sollars, et al., 48A02-1608-PL-1704.

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