The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has made a ruling which may effectively alter American gambling laws on how casinos control credit markers. The Venetian Casino in Las Vegas has been pursuing a $500,000 marker from an over-extended customer. While a previous court ruled in favour of the Venetian, the appeals court decided the judge made an error when he excluded evidence that the gambler ended his credit line.
According to California resident Amine Nehme’s attorney, this ruling may modify how casinos manage credit lines. Nevada law enables the casino to submit unpaid marker’s to a gambler’s bank at the conclusion of play if he does not pay up.
The 3-judge panel of the appeals court declared in its judgment that (now-former) US District Court Judge Brian Sandoval should have allowed the evidence. It was the Venetian’s mistake to allow Nehme a half million dollar credit line, back in September 2005. This was seven months after Nehme’s own attorney contacted the Strip requesting that Nehme should have all credit terminated. One of Venetian’s employees signed a U.S. Postal Service receipt confirming reception of the missive.
On September 5th 2005, Nehme made the dubious decision to sign a Venetian Casino marker for $500,000, only to lose the entire amount at the blackjack tables. Since he couldn’t pay off the marker, the casino requested the funds from Nehme’s bank which bounced the marker because of insufficient funds. In 2007, the Venetian Casino sued Nehme and by 2008 Judge Sandoval issued a summary judgement in favor of the casino.
In the appeal, Judge Carlos Bea decided “The district court’s improper exclusion of the … letter and return receipt was harmful because those pieces of evidence raise a triable issue of fact as to whether Venetian’s right to enforce the marker against Nehme is subject to Nehme’s defense based on common law contract principles.”
Las Vegas attorney Gary Logan represented Nehme at the appeals hearing. According to Logan, Nehme paid off a $1.5 million marker before requesting the termination of his credit line. Moreover, Logan asserted “He paid every obligation that he owed…. It was The Venetian’s duty to cancel his line of credit and they didn’t do that. The judge refused to allow that information to come back into evidence.”
Online casinos in the US are unlikely to be effected by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. On the one hand, internet casinos generally will not grant markers; deposits must be made before funds can be gambled. On the other hand, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) already prevents American banks from transferring funds for internet gambling in the United States.