Atlantic City: Judge in Borgata/MGM case rules casinos have no duty to stop compulsive gamblers from betting

February 5, 2024 3:02 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Wayne Parry, Associated Press
February 5, 2024 3:02 PM

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City’s casinos have no legal obligation to stop compulsive gamblers from betting, a judge ruled, dismissing a lawsuit from a self-described problem gambler who accused the Borgata and its parent company, MGM Resorts International, of plying him with offers to gamble despite knowing about his addiction.

U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Cox Arleo dismissed a lawsuit on Jan. 31 by Sam Antar against the gambling companies, saying the voluminous rules and regulations governing gambling in New Jersey do not impose a legal duty upon casinos to cut off compulsive gamblers.

New Jersey casino law “pervasively regulates the responsibilities of casinos as they relate to compulsive gamblers, but is notably silent on whether casinos or online gambling platforms may induce people who present with compulsive gambling behavior to patronize their businesses,” the judge wrote in her decision.

She also cited two previous New Jersey cases in which a compulsive gambler and a patron who claimed to have lost money gambling while drunk sued unsuccessfully.

Similar lawsuits have been dismissed in other states, including Indiana.

“The New Jersey Legislature … has not yet seen fit to require casinos to prevent or stop inducing gambling from those that exhibit problem gambling behavior,” Arleo wrote. “As a matter of law, (the) defendants do not owe a negligence common law duty of care to plaintiffs.”

Antar said the law needs to be changed, adding he plans to appeal the dismissal of the case.

“This is not just about me; this is about all the people across this country who have this addiction,” he said. “When are we as a country going to address this?”

New Jersey, like other states, has a program in which gamblers can voluntarily exclude themselves from in-person or online betting. The casinos must honor that list and have been fined by regulators for allowing self-excluded gamblers to place bets.

Antar, who has homes in New York and in Long Branch, New Jersey, gambled $30 million over 100,000 bets during nine months in 2019, according to his lawsuit, which does not specify how much he actually lost. Antar said he is not certain of the amount, and his lawyer, Matthew Litt, said it was “at least in the six figures.”

His lawsuit made some of the same claims that were raised — and rejected by a judge — in another person’s lawsuit targeting Atlantic City casinos. In 2008, a federal judge ruled against New York gambler Arelia Taveras who sued seven Atlantic City casinos that she said had a duty to stop her from gambling. She lost nearly $1 million over two years, including dayslong gambling binges.

“She spent money on the bona fide chance that she might win more money,” U.S. District Court Judge Renée Bumb wrote in a 2008 ruling. “In short, she gambled. The mere fact that defendants profited from her misfortune, while lamentable, does not establish a cognizable claim in the law.”

MGM cites that case among its numerous defenses to Antar’s litigation, and said it did not create or worsen a gambling problem in Antar or anyone else.

The company declined comment Monday.

Litt said his appeal will center on his contention that New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, designed to protest customers from “unconscionable” acts by companies, should apply in this case.

Antar is the nephew of Eddie Antar, who founded the Crazy Eddie electronics stores in the 1970s and 1980s. Eddie Antar defrauded investors out of more than $74 million, and died in 2016.

In 2013, Sam Antar was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for taking $225,000 in a fraudulent investment scheme. He was convicted and jailed in 2022 on theft by deception charges involving nearly $350,000.

In 2023, he admitted committing federal securities fraud for bilking investors, including friends stemming from that same case, served four months in jail and was ordered to pay restitution.

He is currently free under an intensive supervision program, and says he has been informally counseling young people with gambling problems.

“Who better than me to show them what this can become?” he said.

Copyright Associated Press