A long-running Illinois court action against Pokerstars and its parent group Amaya Gaming reached another milestone last week when the Seventh Court of Appeals supported lower court rulings that Judy Fahrner and her son Daniel, and Kelly Sonnenberg and her son Casey cannot recover money lost gambling on the internet poker companies’ websites back in 2011.
Our readers may recall that the plaintiffs sought to exploit an Illinois statute, the Illinois Loss Recovery Act, which enables individuals to sue to recover illegal gambling losses… including other gamblers’ losses.
In the first round of the fight, plaintiff’s filed litigation in 2012, but the claims were rejected because they had failed to meet a six-month deadline for direct claims after the gambling took place.
However, the courts empowered the mothers of Daniel Fahmer and Casey Sonnenberg to continue the action on the basis of their son’s losses, and it is this case that the three-strong Appeal Court panel of judges has rejected.
The publication Court House News reports that in essence, the judges found that Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker (as it was then) were operators and not direct playing competitors of the plaintiffs.
The companies may have taken a rake, but they were not the “winners” against the plaintiffs in the sense intended in the statute, they found. The companies were the “keepers of the house” and not the direct playing party that bested the plaintiffs, the judges found.
In other words, rake constitutes charging a fee for providing a service or facility, and is not the same as directly playing and winning a poker game against an opponent.
The judges also expressed reservations on the impact of a favourable ruling for the plaintiffs under the statute, fearing the possibility that such a precedent might encourage others to gamble online in the knowledge that they could subsequently claim back any losses.
“Hordes of new gamblers might be enticed to gambling websites if gamblers couldn’t lose any money there because the hosts of the websites would have to reimburse any losses they incurred,” the judges warned.
The court also examined the historic context of the Illinois Loss Recovery Act, pointing out that times, circumstances and attitudes to gambling have changed and commenting:
“A gambler knows that the money he puts in the pot is at risk. It is not a risk he has to take; he takes it because he hopes to win the pot, or simply because he likes gambling or risk taking in general. If he loses $50 he may well say to himself ‘I’d rather have won, but $50 wasn’t too high a price to pay for a night of gambling, and en route to losing $50 I did after all win some nice pots and get compliments from the guys I was playing with.'”
The Illinois case is broadly analogous with a similar claim being made by the state of Kentucky against Amaya gaming, where the state is trying to use a similar state statute to claim for itself all the monies lost by Kentucky online poker players on Pokerstars and Full Tilt websites back in 2011 (see previous reports).
That case is still developing, but a lower court has awarded the ridiculous sum of $870 million against Amaya, a sum outrageously larger than the amounts wagered, according to Amaya (see previous reports).