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July 20, 2004.

KIRTI A. MEHTA, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN GRADY, Senior District Judge


Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment on both plaintiff's complaint and defendant Sandra Rzeszutko's counterclaim. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, and defendants' motion is granted in part.


  This is a civil rights action brought by pro se plaintiff Kirti A. Mehta against Des Plaines Development Limited, also known as Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel ("Harrah's") and Harrah's employees or former employees Sandra Rzeszutko, John Parsons, Fran Fehrenbach, Vince Donlevie, and Thomas Mueller. The thrust of the complaint is that defendants discriminated against plaintiff because of his national origin. (Mehta is originally from India.) The following facts are taken largely from the defendants' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Facts and plaintiff's deposition testimony. These facts are undisputed except as indicated and where plaintiff's version of the facts is noted. Defendants have objected to the procedural inadequacies of plaintiff's submissions, most notably his failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1. We have a duty, however, to apply a more lenient standard to pro se parties. Although plaintiff's failure to comply with the local rules might provide adequate reason to rule against him, we will instead evaluate his arguments on the merits.

  In 1996, plaintiff began going to Harrah's to gamble. Some time later, he enrolled in Harrah's "Total Rewards" customer loyalty program.*fn1 Plaintiff enrolled in the program because he saw a Harrah's newspaper advertisement allegedly stating that Total Rewards members would be reimbursed 50 percent of the amount they gamble (their "play"). Plaintiff's problems with Harrah's began the first time he gambled after having enrolled in Total Rewards. Plaintiff lost $900.00 and complained to personnel at the Total Rewards Center (in the casino) that he was entitled to be reimbursed for 50 percent of $900.00. Harrah's personnel informed him that he would only be reimbursed up to $100.00. According to plaintiff, he never received the $100.00 reimbursement, and the dispute over it continued "all the way through" 1999. (Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. F, Mehta Dep. Tr. at 46-47.)

  Nonetheless, plaintiff continued to gamble at Harrah's about three to four times a week. A few years went by without incident, during which plaintiff attained "Platinum" status in the Total Rewards program based on his level of play.*fn2 As a result, plaintiff began receiving complimentary rewards ("comps") from Harrah's, such as meals, drinks, and hotel stays.

  One day in December 1999, plaintiff gambled at Harrah's and received a comp ticket for four meals at Harrah's buffet restaurant. The next day, he returned with his four children and his wife to dine at the buffet. When plaintiff tried to redeem his comp ticket at the buffet cashier's counter, a Total Rewards supervisor named Sue (who has not been named as a defendant) rushed over to the counter along with another supervisor and confiscated the comp ticket. According to plaintiff, Sue told him that he was not entitled to the comp and said, "You beggar. Go back to the country where you come from." (Mehta Dep. Tr. at 53-55.) Plaintiff and his family walked out without having a meal.

  After that incident, plaintiff continued gambling at Harrah's. The next problem occurred in March 2000. Plaintiff was playing slot machines and told a slot supervisor, Mike Pavich (who is not a defendant), that Harrah's had "ripped [plaintiff] off." (Mehta Dep. Tr. at 72.) Plaintiff was referring to the $100.00 that he claims Harrah's owed him due to his play years ago, after he had first enrolled in Total Rewards. Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Pavich issued him a $100.00 voucher by making a computer entry. When plaintiff went to the Total Rewards Center about a week later to claim his voucher, the woman named Sue (with whom plaintiff had the run-in at the buffet) refused to issue the voucher. Thereafter, plaintiff contacted various casino personnel by telephone, asking that the voucher be issued.

  A week or two later, plaintiff went to the VIP Lounge and spoke with Mr. Pavich's supervisor, defendant Fran Fehrenbach. Fehrenbach refused to issue the voucher to plaintiff and told him that it was a moot point because the $100.00 credit never existed. Plaintiff also brought two other complaints to Fehrenbach's attention. One was that plaintiff had written a check to Harrah's for $5.00 that had been cashed for $500.00. The other issue had to do with a "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine that plaintiff claimed was "fixed" because he had lost a lot of money playing the machine and had never received a "bonus spin" while playing. Fehrenbach denied that the game was "fixed."

  After the conversation, plaintiff turned around and was leaving the VIP Lounge when he purportedly heard someone use the term "camel jockey." Plaintiff states that he doesn't know who said it, but it "sounded like [Fehrenbach] to [him]." (Mehta Dep. Tr. at 94.) (Fehrenbach denies it.) There were other customers in the same area of the VIP Lounge at the time.

  Clashes between plaintiff and Harrah's continued to occur. On June 29, 2000, Harrah's overcharged plaintiff for a hotel stay. According to plaintiff, Harrah's compensated for the error by giving him two dinner buffet comps, each for six people (plaintiff, his wife, and the four children), and a two-night hotel suite stay. Harrah's had originally issued a comp for a two-night stay in a standard hotel room, but plaintiff protested that he wanted a suite, and plaintiff alleges that an employee added the word "suite" to the comp ticket.

  On July 20, 2000, plaintiff complained to VIP Lounge employees that he was not credited for table game play. On July 27, 2000, plaintiff tried to get comps from various Total Rewards representatives for four buffet dinners, but was denied. Around that time, plaintiff tried several times to use the dinner vouchers that were issued for the June overcharge, but was told that they would not be honored. In October 2000, plaintiff phoned Harrah's, attempting to reserve his purportedly-comped two-night suite stay, and was told that the comp would not be honored by phone and that he should bring the comp voucher with him in person. On October 12, 2000, he and his wife checked into the hotel and plaintiff attempted to redeem his suite stay comp again. Plaintiff showed his comp voucher to defendant Thomas Mueller, a hotel supervisor. Mueller called non-defendant Jeff Kasuda, Executive Host, to the hotel desk. Kasuda refused to give plaintiff a suite and stated that the original hotel voucher did not have the word "suite" written on it. Mueller and Kasuda took the voucher, but plaintiff asked to see the voucher again, quickly put it in his pocket, and walked away. Plaintiff alleges that as he was walking away, he heard Kasuda ask Mueller whether "that fucking Indian" had checked in. Mueller said yes.

  Plaintiff gambled all night in the casino and returned to his hotel room early the next morning. Defendant Vince Donlevie, Vice-President of Operations, called plaintiff in his hotel room. Donlevie was angry about the previous night's incident, but according to plaintiff stated that he would look into the situation and that Harrah's would accommodate plaintiff if it was true that plaintiff had received a comp for a suite. (Donlevie later sent plaintiff a letter stating that a two-night comp would be honored in December for a standard room, but not for a suite.) Plaintiff sent a fax to Donlevie and Mueller on November 1, 2000, threatening suit for violation of his civil rights. Donlevie referred the matter to Harrah's general counsel. The same day, plaintiff brought his family to the buffet for dinner and attempted to use a comp that he had just received at the Total Rewards Center. A Total Rewards supervisor came to the buffet and told the restaurant manager not to honor plaintiff's comp. The restaurant manager honored plaintiff's comp anyway.

  On November 9, 2000, Harrah's Vice President of Legal Affairs sent plaintiff a letter indicating that Harrah's believed that any lawsuit by plaintiff would be frivolous. In addition, the letter suggested that plaintiff take his business elsewhere and noted that Harrah's would no longer issue plaintiff ...

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