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Addicted Gambler Sues Casino

22 October 2002

EVANSVILLE, Indiana – As reported by the Associated Press: "David N. Williams burned through his life savings at the Casino Aztar, a glitzy new riverboat docked on the banks of the Ohio River here.

"...In an unusual lawsuit filed in federal court here in 2001, Mr. Williams, 52 years old, contends that his addiction to gambling was so severe Casino Aztar should have cut him off. Instead, his suit maintains, Aztar let him return within a year after he was hospitalized for gambling addiction -- and enticed him with promotional mailings. The suit seeks to recover more than $175,000 in losses, plus punitive damages. It claims the Aztar had a legal obligation to keep him from gambling and violated state and federal racketeering laws by urging him to continue.

"…Casino Aztar, one of five casinos owned by Aztar Corp., Phoenix, doesn't dispute that Mr. Williams was addicted. But it contends it had no legal duty to ban him.

"…A $20 coupon for gambling tokens first lured Mr. Williams in January 1996 to the Aztar, a five-deck replica of a 19th-century paddlewheeler.

"...Soon he'd joined Casino Aztar's rewards club for repeat customers and had a `Fun Card.'

"…Most casinos give repeat customers such a card: It charts where and how long cardholders play, what they bet, their winnings and losses. Aztar uses the data to customize promotional mailings, and to calculate how much the house can expect to win if a client keeps returning, says Aztar's Mr. Brown.

"…Mr. Williams drew cash advances from credit cards to gamble, and lost more than $38,553 in two weeks in a March 1997 losing streak tracked by Aztar's `Fun Card' records.

"..Matters came to a head for Mr. Williams in March 1998. He had lost $170,906, Aztar's records show; his casino credit had been canceled, but casino mailings kept coming.

"Aztar says such records don't accurately reflect a gambling problem because some clients can afford to lose more than others.

"…In March 1998, a friend, Darlene Tempel, persuaded a state judge to hospitalize him involuntarily at a private treatment center for addictions. The casino wrote him, saying he would be welcome back only with medical documentation that `our facility poses no threat to your safety.' His photo was put in a binder of banned patrons.

"Ten months later, in early 1999, no one at the casino noticed when Mr. Williams slipped in and resumed using his Fun Card. He ended up mortgaging his house to pay off $45,000 in credit-card debt and filing for personal bankruptcy.

"Casino Aztar concedes the mistake. Mr. Williams got caught in July 2000, when a security guard recognized his photo. Mr. Williams says that was the last day he gambled."

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