A Vermont poker player who felt he was done wrong in New Jersey scored a win in court Wednesday.
The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that the state’s casino gambling law doesn’t bar poker player Michael Bandler from pursuing consumer fraud claims against the Golden Nugget casino in a dispute over a 2015 poker event. The 17-page Opinion stated:
“The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether the Casino Control Act, which grants the Division of Gaming Enforcement (Division) authority to regulate gaming-related advertising, preempts plaintiff’s consumer fraud and common law action alleging a casino hotel falsely advertised a poker tournament. We conclude the action is not preempted. We therefore reverse the summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint on that ground, and remand for further proceedings.”
In 2015, Bandler traveled to the casino to participate in the “Grand Poker Series,” a tournament festival that was slated to take place over 10 days and feature 12 different tournaments with various buy-in fees.
Bandler alleged that he saw an advertisement for the poker series with the phrase “$150,000 IN PRIZE MONEY” and then made the out-of-state trip to participate.
“The advertisement did not expressly state whether the prize money was guaranteed or not guaranteed,” the Opinion stated. “An exemplar that GNAC produced in discovery also stated in small print at the bottom, ‘Management reserves all rights to change or cancel at any time.’ It also stated that the official rules were available in ‘The Poker Room.’ However, plaintiff did not recall seeing that disclaimer.”
Bandler entered one of the poker tournaments that was later canceled due to too few players. The casino “stated that, pursuant to the tournament rules, it paid plaintiff a portion of the limited prize money generated by the entry fees that the casino collected.”
That wasn’t satisfactory for Bandler, as he later filed a complaint alleging violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. His suit was eventually tossed out and he appealed. Wednesday’s Opinion marked a win for Bandler.
“The issue is whether the statement ‘$150,000 IN PRIZE MONEY’ was deceptive, where the casino omitted stating it intended to pay $150,000 only so long as enough people signed up, and the only indirect reference to that intent was the disputed disclaimer in small print about official rules and the right to change or cancel the event,” the Opinion handed down this week said.
“The advertisement itself does not pertain to arcane or technical rules of the game. No special expertise vested in the Division is required to resolve the question.”