Illinois Judge Throws Out Four-Year-Old Lawsuit Targeting Pokerstars

20/01/2016 5:17pm Categories: News, Online Poker US, Poker Politics

US Justice

An Illinois judge has thrown out the appeal of two women who sought to recover gambling losses incurred by their sons on PokerStars in 2011.

The suit was brought by Kelly Sonnenberg and Judy Fahrner, whose sons lost an unspecified amount of money on the online poker site before it pulled out of the US market on April 15, 2011. The suit is based on an archaic statute called the Illinois Loss Recovery Act (ILRA), which allows for third-parties to sue to recover gambling losses on behalf of other people. The women's sons could not file a complaint due to the fact that the six-month window to take action had already closed. The ILRA, however, gave Sonnenberg and Fahrner another way in.

A lower court had already tossed the suit after ruling that PokerStars was merely the provider of games, only taking rakes out of each pot, not collecting winnings. In the recent appeal, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner compared the iGaming giant to a “croupier who supervises the casino’s poker game.”

Posner stated that allowing online gamblers to sue for losses could tempt more people to play online, knowing if they lost, they could simply take legal action to recover the money. “Hordes of new gamblers might be enticed to gambling websites if gamblers couldn’t lose any money there because the hosts of the websites would have to reimburse any losses they incurred,” he said. “In other words, heads I (the gambler) win, tails you (the host) lose.”

He continued, saying that a poker player knows that the money he puts in play is at risk, but “it is not a risk he has to take; he takes it because he hopes to win the pot, or simply because he likes gambling or risk-taking in general.”

While the suit seems to be finally dead, PokerStars is still dealing with a similar case in Kentucky, in which it was recently ordered to pay a whopping $870 million to the state.

Kentucky state officials used a statute similar to the one used in Illinois, which also allows third-parties to sue for gambling losses after a six-month period has passed. Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate agreed that PokerStars was liable for $290 million, and, since the statute allows penalties of three times the damages, would be on the hook for $870 million in total.

PokerStars rejected the ruling, and highlighted the fact that it had only collected $18 million in rake during that time period. The award amount seems to suggest that PokerStars was responsible for all of the losses incurred on the site by state poker players, not only the rake.

The site plans to appeal the ruling and has said that the suit is nothing more than an attempt to extort money from the company, as any future damages will not be paid to the players themselves.