dollars and sense

Many large industries whose products are known to be harmful have faced scrutiny from the courts.  We all remember the big tobacco lawsuits and the numerous gun manufactures whose feet were held to the fire.  Such lawsuits and tort cases serve as a check when consumers are not properly safeguarded.  Now it appears that the casinos many be the next target.  Two separate lawsuits in two separate parts of the world may serve to be the springboard for litigation that could help increase consumer protections around problem and compulsive gambling.

The first case was reported by the Associated Press and involves a disbarred lawyer suing six casinos in Atlantic City and one in Las Vegas.  Arelia Margarita Taveras started gambling like most others, as a form of entertainment, but she quickly became a compulsive gambler.  The AP explains “she would go days at a time at the tables, not eating or sleeping, brushing her teeth with disposable wipes so she did not have to leave.”  At one point she gambled for almost six straight days.  She stole money out of her clients escrow accounts to pay for her addiction, was disbarred, and now faces criminal charges.  She is suing on the grounds that the casinos “had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.”

The second case was reported by the Guardian and involves a man who lost over 2 million pounds.  Graham Calvert was a compulsive gambler who placed himself on a self-exclusion list.  Given his compulsion, he went back to the same bookmaker, opened a new account in his own name and fell back into the same destructive routine to the tune of 2 million pounds.  Calvert claims that “knowing his admitted history, they should not have allowed him to open the second account, and failed in “a duty of care” to refuse his bets when it was clear they were part of his pattern.”

Both of these cases will be hard win but Calvert has the most realistic expectations given Britain’s self-exclusion laws, which the bookmaker allegedly ignored.  However, both of these cases call into question a duty that the gambling establishment has for proper care of their patrons.  Just as a bar has a responsibility to recognize a problem drinker and cut them off, so to should the casinos exercise the decency to cut off problem gamblers, especially those who have reached out for help.  Instead, it looks as though the trend of praying on those with destructive compulsions may continue until someone is legally held responsible.

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