Indiana News

Court Says Casino Not Obligated to Protect Gambler

3/22/2009

A casino wasn't obligated to protect a problem gambler who lost $125,000 in a single night, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Instead, the 2-1 ruling Friday said, Jenny Kephart failed to take advantage of programs that allow compulsive gamblers to have themselves banned from casinos.

"While Kephart lost the money she wagered, it is an injury that she chose to risk incurring. She wagered her money to purchase a chance to win even more," the 28-page ruling said. "Indeed, it is extremely unlikely that she would have brought suit had she won her wagers."

Kephart, 52, of suburban Nashville, Tenn., countersued then-Caesars Indiana in 2007 after the Ohio River casino sued her to recover $125,000 that she had lost in a single night of gambling in 2006.

Her complaint alleged Caesars, now Horseshoe Southern Indiana, knew that she had received a $1 million inheritance and enticed her with free meals and rooms and provided money on credit for her to gamble, despite knowing she was a compulsive gambler who had emerged from bankruptcy four years earlier.

"This was much more than marketing," said Kephart's lawyer, Terry Noffsinger of Evansville. "They sent a car to her front door."

Noffsinger said he was disappointed by the Court of Appeals decision. He said he wouldn't know about a possible appeal to the state Supreme Court until he had spoken to Kephart.

The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment Sunday from the casino's lawyers. The casino appealed after a Harrison circuit judge denied its motion to dismiss the case.

The judges noted that Kephart had not asked the casino to ban her as she could have done. If she had, they said, state regulations that require casinos to cut off enticements to such people would have taken effect.

"Kephart has a responsibility to protect herself from her own proclivities and not rely on a casino to bear sole responsibility for her actions," the ruling said.

Still, Judge Paul D. Mathias and Judge Carr Darden said they were "troubled" that Caesars would allow Kephart to cash six markers to wager and then lose all of the money.

They also said they sympathized with Kephart's plight because state law allows casinos to recoup triple the amount of unpaid funds and attorneys' fees.

The third panel member, Judge Terry A. Crone, filed a dissent describing the casino's actions as morally "repugnant." He said the state failed to set high standards for casinos while reaping financial gains from them.

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