Gambler Sues Casinos for $20 Million

suzecat

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By WAYNE PARRY,AP
Posted: 2008-03-08 21:13:58
Filed Under: Law News, Nation News


ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (March 8) - She was an ambitious lawyer and TV commentator who started going to Atlantic City casinos to relax, and soon was getting high-roller treatment that included limousines whisking her to the resort city.

Arelia Margarita Taveras says she was even allowed to bring her dog, Sasha, to the blackjack tables, sitting in her purse.

But her gambling spun out of control: She said 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.

She says her losses totaled nearly $1 million.

Now she is chasing the longest of long shots: a $20 million racketeering lawsuit in federal court against six Atlantic City casinos and one in Las Vegas, claiming they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling problem and cut her off.

"They knew I was going for days without eating or sleeping," Taveras said. "I would pass out at the tables. They had a duty of care to me. Nobody in their right mind would gamble for four or five straight days without sleeping."

Experts say her case will be difficult to prove, but it provides an unusually detailed window into the life of a problem gambler.

"It's like crack, only gambling is worse than crack because it's mental," said Taveras, 37, a New Yorker who now lives in Minnesota. "It creeps up on you, the impulse. It's a sickness."

She lost her law practice, her apartment, her parents' home, and owes the IRS $58,000. She said she even considered swerving into oncoming traffic to kill herself.

In interviews with The Associated Press, Taveras admitted she dipped into her clients' escrow accounts to finance her gambling habit. She was disbarred last June, and faces criminal charges stemming from those actions, but is trying to work out restitution agreements in order to avoid a prison term.

Her lawsuit names Resorts Atlantic City, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Tropicana Casino Resort, the Showboat Casino Hotel, Bally's Atlantic City, as well as the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The casinos deny any wrongdoing, maintaining in court papers that Taveras brought her problems on herself. Casino representatives either declined to comment for this report or did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Last month, a judge dismissed the Trump casinos, the Tropicana, Showboat and Bally's from the lawsuit on technical grounds, but allowed Taveras to refile the suit against them by April. The suit remains in effect against Resorts and MGM because its allegations against them were more specific.

Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said casino workers undergo extensive training on spotting problem gamblers and referring them to help, including a self-exclusion list the state maintains. Gamblers can voluntarily bar themselves from casinos, either for a few years or for life. While they are on the list, casinos cannot solicit them.

Dan Heneghan, a spokesman for the state Casino Control Commission, said 663 people are on the list.

"This can be a delicate situation, and it comes down to an individual's personal responsibility," Corbo said. "We can only suggest that they receive assistance and provide information how they can obtain help, but it is up to them to commit to seek it."

Paul O'Gara, an attorney specializing in Atlantic City gambling issues, said it will be difficult for Taveras to prove that the casinos knew she had a problem but ignored it.

"How are you supposed to know whether this was a woman who was just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely, as opposed to someone who couldn't control themselves?" he said.

Arnie Wexler, the former head of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, estimates there are 5 million problem gamblers in the United States, with 15 million at risk of becoming compulsive.

"Hers is not a rare case, believe me," said Wexler, who says he had a gambling problem. "This is the most powerful addiction you can have without putting something into your body. You remember your first big win, and you think `Hey, I can do this again; I can get it all back."'

As a young lawyer, Taveras made a name for herself representing the families of victims of American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed in New York City's borough of Queens in November 2001, killing 265 people.

Her practice had 400 clients and earned her $500,000 (euro324,317) a year. She appeared on TV and radio to discuss legal issues, wrote a guidebook for women dealing with deadbeat dads in the court system, titled "The Gangsta Girls' Guide To Child Support," and was a regular contributor to Hispanic culture Web sites. In 2000, the New York Daily News named her one of "21 New Yorkers to Watch in the 21st Century."

As an escape from the seven-day-a-week pressures of her law practice, she started going to Atlantic City to unwind in September 2003.

During one five-day gambling jag at Resorts in June 2005, Taveras says, she existed on nothing but orange juice and Snickers bars that the staff gave her. On the fifth day, she said, a dealer told her to go home because she appeared exhausted and unable to keep track of her cards.

Taveras spent nearly a year in clinics to treat her gambling addiction. She filed her lawsuit last September, representing herself, and is now working at a telephone call center in Minnesota.

"Everybody says `You gambled and you enjoyed yourself, then lost your money and now you want it back,"' Taveras said. "They think gambling is fun. It isn't, believe me. Not when you get like I did."
 

NASHVEGAS

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Just read this on AOHell....Suze, you beat me by 20 minutes,LOL and it reminded me of the recent thread started by Mousey on Gambling Bankroll....after the events of the recent weeks, I am pretty sickened by those in denial and online is just as bad if not worse as people have constant access to a puter....the pretending on the forums by many is sickening (yesterday I was told by member here she can beat the slots online,none of my business provided____________________) as I have come to know a few people personally....the pretending that they are laughing all the way to the bank so to speak as the recent "assclown" claimed on another forum but they must think bank is an abbreviation for another word starting with bank.....I realize as I stated in Mousey's thread bad things can happen to good people but that is not what I am talking about....legal endeavors in moderation as well as affordable (relative to each individual),enjoy by all means, but denial and addiction is the devil and a easy trap for those to fall into for whatever each's reason.... the blame and shame is spread to all parties as most including I could be vulnerable but there is help for those who really want it despite the disguised obstacles, JMO!
 
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Matthew23

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Joe Corbo, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said casino workers undergo extensive training on spotting problem gamblers and referring them to help

"They knew I was going for days without eating or sleeping," Taveras said. "I would pass out at the tables. They had a duty of care to me. Nobody in their right mind would gamble for four or five straight days without sleeping."

I wonder just how extensive this training is :rolleyes: Surely someone who has passed out at the table is not someone who's "just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely"
 

NASHVEGAS

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I wonder just how extensive this training is :rolleyes: Surely someone who has passed out at the table is not someone who's "just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely"
Training my rear, most casinos would let me lose everything without a second thought, glad I am just a little addicted....BTW, I have played at The Venetian for 5 straight days while winning,not chasing...I took breaks as I always do at the rate of about once an hour....I think on the 5 day deal my longest break was about 2 hours.....my parents were at THE HOTEL at M.BAY and my mother wanted to see me before they left the next day,so after 5 days of no sleep, she said I looked tired but unlike Lauriejim she did not inspect my eyes (I prolly could not open my eyes),LOL:D:D:D
 

Mousey

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I wonder just how extensive this training is :rolleyes: Surely someone who has passed out at the table is not someone who's "just having a good time, or had money and was just lonely"

Yes, but it is she that says she passed out at the tables. And if that happened, she may have lied and made excuses to staff/dealers... 'my blood sugar's low, I'll be ok, bring me some juice'... or similar. She may have gone 5 days without eating or sleeping... did she play at just one casino during that time? or did she move around a bit to keep them from detecting her addiction. As w/any addiction the need to keep it hidden is often as powerful as the addiction itself. I mean, come on... if they figure out she's addicted they'll try to make her stop.

This sort of suit opens a whole big can of worms regarding the responsibility of both the player/addict and the casinos & staff and we need to hear all sides of this.
 

NASHVEGAS

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Yes, but it is she that says she passed out at the tables. And if that happened, she may have lied and made excuses to staff/dealers... 'my blood sugar's low, I'll be ok, bring me some juice'... or similar. She may have gone 5 days without eating or sleeping... did she play at just one casino during that time? or did she move around a bit to keep them from detecting her addiction. As w/any addiction the need to keep it hidden is often as powerful as the addiction itself. I mean, come on... if they figure out she's addicted they'll try to make her stop.

This sort of suit opens a whole big can of worms regarding the responsibility of both the player/addict and the casinos & staff and we need to hear all sides of this.
Just like the Caesar's Indiana case with the lady from a Nashville burb, best case scenario for the patron may be a token settlement to go away....I just do not see how casinos can police the addicted (unless they are already excluded from the subject casino) provided they have substantial net worths and/or incomes.....not saying that logic should not have prevailed on the casino's part....and the smart casinos/hosts want to milk you for everything but over time not a single visit....I am rambling,tired,sorry!!
 

RobWin

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Could you imagine the amount of lawsuits that would be brought forth and filed if she actually won this case, I think the casinos in question will find a way to make her happily go away...the case will most likely never make it to a courtroom !!!
 

GGW Laurie

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Could you imagine the amount of lawsuits that would be brought forth and filed if she actually won this case, I think the casinos in question will find a way to make her happily go away...the case will most likely never make it to a courtroom !!!
....you took the words right out of my mouth Rob !!!!!!!
 

gfkostas

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I would like to question people who say that they gambled "5 days straight". This statement is in itself questionable let alone the rest. Are they meaning to tell us that for 5 days they never slept??? and were fit enough to sit on a chair straight, while playing blackjack?
 

NASHVEGAS

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I would like to question people who say that they gambled "5 days straight". This statement is in itself questionable let alone the rest. Are they meaning to tell us that for 5 days they never slept??? and were fit enough to sit on a chair straight, while playing blackjack?
You want my casino hosts name and number as you seem to be questioning the truth in my post. We will have to call him 3 way as he will not release any info. without my authorization. What is to be gained by lying as I meant exactly what I posted, 5 days with small hourly breaks? Maybe I misunderstood the implication of your post, if so I apologize!
 

winbig

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What's next? I can't wait for someone to sue the casinos because they were too drunk to play and lost a fortune, but yet the waitresses kept serving them...

Think about it...

A bar can be held responsible if they kept serving someone that's already had too much to drink and went out and killed someone after leaving...so why wouldn't a casino be held responsible if someone lost a lot of money as a result of being too drunk?

Of course it's not the exact same, but the principle is.

I've yet to see a pit boss come over and tell a player to leave because they were too drunk to play rationally....I believe they love it when someone's sitting there and averaging about 3-4 drinks an hour and consistently losing. The same goes for a waitress...I've never seen a player get cut off, unless of course they're a mean drunk and causing problems.
 

heatherad

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I know with our land based casino, they will stop serving you if you had too much to drink. Also, they will not serve you if you come into the casino drunk(they will monitor you and if problems arise, escort you to the door).
Also, you can ban yourself from the casino for as long as you wish once a person realizes they are gambling too much money. And if I'm not mistaken, I've also heard of them banning players who they've monitored and realized they had a major gambling problem.
I guess this is an advantage to a small city casino as opposed to a bigger city casino with more players and such.
 

winbig

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I know with our land based casino, they will stop serving you if you had too much to drink. Also, they will not serve you if you come into the casino drunk(they will monitor you and if problems arise, escort you to the door).
Also, you can ban yourself from the casino for as long as you wish once a person realizes they are gambling too much money. And if I'm not mistaken, I've also heard of them banning players who they've monitored and realized they had a major gambling problem.
I guess this is an advantage to a small city casino as opposed to a bigger city casino with more players and such.

Kudos to the casino you're talking about...That's the way it should be handled, in a perfect world. ;)


I understand that you can't hardly walk 100 feet in a casino without seeing a sign that has a number to call if you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem...the problem is 99% of all problem gamblers won't call that number (or at least follow through with it) unless they've already hit rock bottom. You can lead a horse to water....

With the 'sue-happy' mentality of today, casinos who do take action and ban suspected problem gamblers take the risk of being sued...so basically they're screwed if they do, and screwed if they don't.
 

babs7262

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I wonder if I could go back and sue the drug dealers that sold to me when I was high?

Whoever said the part about passing out and she could of lied...I agree. I have narcolepsy and sometimes I pass out from anywhere from 10-20 miinutes. She could of said that too.

Im sorry, Maybe if part of what she said is true and it is ashame that there are people who take advantage of addicted gamers like some hosts might BUT...ultimately it is you that stops yourself from gambling. They didnt make her bet a gun point. If everyone with an addiction could sue then we would be in more trouble than ever.

Someone also mentioned that a bar can be responsible for a drinker......that is because a drinker and go out on the road and kill someone, a gambler can't. They only hurt themselves and family

I am getting so sick of people not taking responsibilty for their actions and blaming others. I bet if she won instead of lost the casino wouldnt sue her for taking their money via strategy. Can you tell Im pissed off?:)
 

aodat2

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About a month ago, I went to Australia with my family members.

We went to the casino over there and they wanted to gamble a bit. After some time playing and winning some money over there. I stopped playing and was chatting with the pitboss (they called them Inspectors over there).

Anyways after about some time, they changed places and about 1/2 hour later, the pitboss which I was talking to earlier called me. I was surprised as I was not even playing anymore. He told me to have a look at my family members to see if they are still having fun or if he should stop them from playing already coz it seems that they might be getting out of hand (in losing). This was totally a HUGE shock for me as I have never had anyone (not even dealers or hosts) coming up to me and telling me this before.

If I had a chance to recommend that person, I sure as hell would definitely recommend this pitboss to get a real good promotion as he really went out of his way to get my attention and to look into my family's plays and etc.

Now, if my family were to play for the entire shift and maybe even until he came back the next day, I'm sure as hell he would have stopped them from playing with or without my consent and told them to rest and perhaps come back tomorrow or something like that.

Passing out on a table is a very serious thing and even a dealer should know better than to actually deal to the person who has just passed out on the table. I'm sure even the most stupid dealer would call the pitboss to check on the person and ask if they are OK or something.

I doubt that this "lawyer" is really telling the whole truth or is she just telling her part of the story and omitting the part where they asked if she was OK and etc. If you go 2 days without sleep and you're on the same table, I'm sure any pitboss would most probably ask if you're OK and at least if you need rest or something. That's if you're on the same table/pit.
 

hobbithumper

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Arelia Margarita Taveras says she was even allowed to bring her dog, Sasha, to the blackjack tables, sitting in her purse.

But her gambling spun out of control: She said she would go days at a time at the tables

Poor Sasha, five days in a purse....Then again, she probably pawned the dog for a handful of quarters.
 

suzecat

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About a month ago, I went to Australia with my family members.

We went to the casino over there and they wanted to gamble a bit. After some time playing and winning some money over there. I stopped playing and was chatting with the pitboss (they called them Inspectors over there).

Anyways after about some time, they changed places and about 1/2 hour later, the pitboss which I was talking to earlier called me. I was surprised as I was not even playing anymore. He told me to have a look at my family members to see if they are still having fun or if he should stop them from playing already coz it seems that they might be getting out of hand (in losing). This was totally a HUGE shock for me as I have never had anyone (not even dealers or hosts) coming up to me and telling me this before.

If I had a chance to recommend that person, I sure as hell would definitely recommend this pitboss to get a real good promotion as he really went out of his way to get my attention and to look into my family's plays and etc.

Now, if my family were to play for the entire shift and maybe even until he came back the next day, I'm sure as hell he would have stopped them from playing with or without my consent and told them to rest and perhaps come back tomorrow or something like that.

Passing out on a table is a very serious thing and even a dealer should know better than to actually deal to the person who has just passed out on the table. I'm sure even the most stupid dealer would call the pitboss to check on the person and ask if they are OK or something.

I doubt that this "lawyer" is really telling the whole truth or is she just telling her part of the story and omitting the part where they asked if she was OK and etc. If you go 2 days without sleep and you're on the same table, I'm sure any pitboss would most probably ask if you're OK and at least if you need rest or something. That's if you're on the same table/pit.

So government regulation can be a good thing?
 

RobWin

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I wonder if I could go back and sue the drug dealers that sold to me when I was high?

LOL !!! Yea, I think I need to do the same thing Babs,,,especially to the guy that told me it was "Maui Wauie" and damn-it, it only turned out to be "Indiana Ditchweed"...LOL...:D
 

Eliot Jacobson

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There are some grounds based on NRS 5.011

Here is a law in Nevada that might apply to this situation (were the law suit in Nevada):

5.011 Grounds for disciplinary action.
The board and the commission deem any activity on the part of any licensee, his agents or employees, that is inimical to the public health, safety, morals, good order and general welfare of the people of the State of Nevada, or that would reflect or tend to reflect discredit upon the State of Nevada or the gaming industry, to be an unsuitable method of operation and shall be grounds for disciplinary action by the board and the commission in accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Act and the regulations of the board and the commission. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following acts or omissions may be determined to be unsuitable methods of operation:


1. Failure to exercise discretion and sound judgment to prevent incidents which might reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the development of the industry.

2. Permitting persons who are visibly intoxicated to participate in gaming activity.

3. Complimentary service of intoxicating beverages in the casino area to persons who are visibly intoxicated.

[4 - 9 omitted]

10. Failure to conduct gaming operations in accordance with proper standards of custom, decorum and decency, or permit any type of conduct in the gaming establishment which reflects or tends to reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the gaming industry.

One could easily argue that she was "visibly intoxicated" even if she hadn't had a single drink.

B&M casinos really do have a responsibility to not take unfair advantage of customers who are not of sound mind. I wrote a chapter in my book about a an incident where I used 5.011 while playing poker to have a poker player removed from the table.

--Eliot
 
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