Judges Rule Harrah’s Can Collect High Roller’s Gambling Debts

Harrah's Atlantic City Lawsuit

Massimo Dangelico claims he signed up for the New Jersey self-exclusion list, but provided no evidence he did so.

The Atlantic County Superior Court’s appellate panel ruled in favor of Harrah’s Atlantic City on Friday. The panel ruled that Harrah’s Atlantic City can pursue gaming debt collection against Massimo Dangelico.

Mr. Dangelico is a compulsive gambler who claimed Harrah’s should have shut him off. The panel ruled that the Atlantic City casino does not have the burden of stopping compulsive gamblers.

The panel of judges ruled, “The relationship is built on enabling gaming, not withholding it.” It added that Harrah’s can pursue the $188,000 in debt Mr. Dangelico owes. The judges stated Harrah’s is “in the business of operating casino gambling”.

The “defendant is its customer”, who came to the casino to gamble. Therefore, Harrah’s provided what the customer wanted.

Didn’t Join Self-Exclusion List

New Jersey has a self-exclusion registry, but Massimo Dangelico did not sign up for the list. The Division of Gaming Enforcement created the self-exclusion law in 2001 to help problem gamblers manage their addiction. Lawmakers expanded the list for online gambling in 2013.

A person can sign up for the registry, which then bans them from either land-based casinos or online casinos (or both) throughout the state. The self-exclusion list allows for a 1-year ban, a 5-year ban, or a lifetime ban. Had Massimo Dangelico signed up for the list and Harrah’s allowed him to gamble, he would have a legal case.

Dangelico’s lawyers claim he signed up for the registry, but could not locate him on the list — or prove he ever signed up for the registry.

Atlantic City Casino Markers

Instead, the panel said Massimo Dangelico presented as a high roller who qualified for casino markers. Casino markers are a form of credit a land-based casino gives to people who wager $10,000 or more in a gaming session. The player signs for the market, which acts as a kind of IOU.

The IOU comes with the force of law. It is not treated as a form of credit that can be ignored at the risk of bad credit. Instead, casinos can take the person who signed for the debt to court to collect the credit.

When Dangelico failed to pay back the $160,000 in debt, the casino began the debt collection process. That process included the original loan, interest, and attorney fees.

Appellate Court Ruling

The Superior Court judges ruled the “defendant bears the burden to prove his affirmative defense. He has failed to demonstrate a violation of the statutory and regulatory framework…governing extension of credit by casinos, which may constitute a defense.”

The judges added, “We are satisfied that Harrah’s demonstrated the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

“We are not convinced the public interest supports recognizing a duty to withhold credit from a patron who has not availed himself of the mechanisms the law provides to protect himself from his compulsiveness to gamble.”