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Vinson v. Casino Queen

August 26, 1997

LILLIE VINSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

CASINO QUEEN, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 95 CV 772 William D. Stiehl, Judge.

Before CUMMINGS, RIPPLE and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED JUNE 6, 1997

DECIDED AUGUST 26, 1997

Plaintiff-appellant Lillie Vinson, a Missouri resident, commenced this diversity action against defendant-appellee Casino Queen, Inc. ("Casino Queen") under 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/28-1 et seq. (West 1997) (the "Loss Recovery Act") to recover losses in the amount of $77,200 allegedly incurred by her son, Elgin Vinson, aboard Casino Queen's riverboat casino in St. Clair County, Illinois.

Vinson brought this action against Casino Queen under Section 5/28-8 of the Loss Recovery Act, which provides that:

(a) Any person who by gambling shall lose to any other person, any sum of money or thing of value, amounting to the sum of $50 or more and shall pay or deliver the same or any part thereof, may sue for and recover the money or other thing of value

. . . .

(b) If within 6 months, such person who under the terms of Subsection 28-8(a) . . . is entitled to initiate action to recover his losses does not in fact pursue his remedy, any person may initiate a civil action against the winner. The court or the jury . . . shall determine the amount of the loss. After such determination, the court shall enter a judgment of triple the amount so desired. *fn1

The term "gambling" is defined in Section 5/28-1 of the Act. Subsection (b) of that Section provides that "Participants in any of the following activities shall not be convicted of gambling therefor: . . . (11) Gambling games conducted on riverboats when authorized by the Riverboat Gambling Act."

The Illinois Riverboat Gambling Act, 230 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 10/1 et seq., authorized riverboat gambling operations in the state and provided for the formation of the Illinois Gaming Board to oversee operations licensed under that Act. Vinson emphasizes that under the Riverboat Gambling Act riverboat gambling operations are "authorized to the extent that they are carried out in accordance with the provisions of this Act." 230 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 10/3(a). In this case, she argues, the gambling at issue was not carried out according to the provisions of the Riverboat Gambling Act in that Elgin Vinson was under 21 years old when the gambling in question took place, *fn2 in violation of 230 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 10/11(a)(10). Vinson claims that as a result the gambling at issue here was not authorized by the Riverboat Gambling Act within the meaning of Section 28-1(b)(11) of the Loss Recovery Act, and consequently the gambling losses created by this unauthorized gambling are fully recoverable under the Loss Recovery Act.

Both parties filed motions for summary judgment in the district court. Casino Queen argued that every game that took place aboard its riverboat casino was authorized and governed by the Riverboat Gambling Act and therefore exempted from the coverage of the Loss Recovery Act. It also asserted that recovery under the Loss Recovery Act would reward Elgin Vinson for obtaining a false identification card *fn3 and gambling with money that was obtained by extortion. *fn4 However, the district court was not required to look at the particulars of the Vinsons' activities, because it found that Vinson could not state a cause of action under the Loss Recovery Act. It found that:

[A]ll games conducted on the Casino Queen were games 'authorized by the Riverboat Gambling Act,' and therefore are specifically exempted from recovery under the very statute upon which plaintiff relies. This is true, despite the fact that the admission of a minor may have violated the Act. The gambling games themselves fall within in [sic] the Act, and are therefore 'authorized' by the Act.

Vinson v. Casino Queen Inc., Memorandum & Order of the District Court at 3 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 14, 1996). The district court ruled that the Loss Recovery Act was "simply inapplicable" to a violation (i.e., the admission of a minor into the casino) of the Riverboat Gambling Act. Id. at 4. It reviewed the power and purpose of the Illinois Gaming Board established under the ...


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