Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

File under: Not clear on the concept

Posted by sanityinjection on September 21, 2009

In the dumbest news item of the weekend, a man is suing the Detroit MotorCity casino for failing to stop him from gambling at the establishment even after he filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Italo Mario Parise is seeking to recover some $670,000 he lost over the course of a decade of gambling at MotorCity.

Before I elaborate on all the reasons why this is inane, a brief disclaimer: I personally enjoy gambling at casinos in various states, although I’ve never been to any in Detroit, and I’ve never lost anything even remotely like what the plaintiff in this case gambled away. Heck, I’m not even worth that much alive or dead.

Let’s skip over the most painfully obvious point that it wouldn’t be “gambling” if you could sue to get your money back when you lose. The plaintiff’s case seems to revolve around the premise that casino officials knew, or should have known, about his bankruptcy case and therefore refused his action. This is actually not as ridiculous as it may seem if Parise was what casinos call a “whale” – someone who routinely bets large sums of money and as a result receives special treatment from the casino. Such individuals are obviously very profitable for the casino and they do pay a lot of attention to them. By my math, based on the amount he lost, Parise might have counted as a whale if he gambled about once a month or less frequently. Any more than that, and he probably wouldn’t have stood out enough for the casino to do a backround check and discover his bankruptcy.

But even assuming they did know about it, where is the liability on the part of the casino? If, in spite of his bankruptcy, Parise continued to return to the casino year after year and place more bets, he obviously wasn’t broke. Had Parise been unable to pay his markers, after a certain amount of time he would have been cut off by the casino, not for his benefit but for their own. Instead, he somehow was able to pay off all his losses – and now he wants them back.  But his own playing history defeats his case.

If Parise claims he has a gambling problem, he’s got no case there either. Every casino offers phone numbers and literature for gambling addiction resources, but it is not their responsibility to force anyone to use them.

So what we have is yet another case of someone who wants to be bailed out from the consequences of their own actions. I’m against that when it’s AIG or General Motors, and I’m against it when it’s a private citizen. My advice to Parise? Be a man and accept responsibility for your own stupidity. If you didn’t lose your job, wife, kids, or house over your gambling habit, be thankful that 670 large is all you had to pay to learn your lesson.


5 Responses to “File under: Not clear on the concept”

  1. Sandy Adell said

    I agree that people who gamble themselves out of house and home must accept responsibility for their actions. I also believe that the casino industry also bears some responsibility. This is an industry that preys on the weaknesses of people like Parise. In fact, most of the revenue from the casinos in Detroit come from gamblers who are not considered whales. Casinos collect an enormous amount of information about its patrons through the rewards cards it issues out, so they know when someone is in financial trouble, yet they continue to extend credit and cash checks and “bleed” the gamblers to death. The notices about calling gamblers anonymous that are posted in casinos are laughable. If it weren’t for people like Parise, losers, the industry would go out of business. In Philadelphia, an anti-gambling activist, Bill Kearney, has been advocating for several years now for casinos to send out monthly statements to members of their rewards programs in order to reduce the numbers of people who are becoming seriously addicted to casino gambling. He argues that, just like with credit card statements, the casino statements could serve as a wake-up call to people who are spending too much. I discuss more about gambling on my blog.

    • Saying that the gaming industry “preys” on gambling addicts is like saying the alcohol industry preys on alcoholics. This ignores the millions of people who are able to enjoy casino gambling and do not have a problem.

      As someone who holds a few casino rewards cards, I can assure you that having a rewards card doesn’t give the casino access to information about my income or bank accounts. You may be thinking of people who establish a line of credit, which is a much tinier population. I could possibly support making that practice illegal to keep people from gambling beyond their means.

      The monthly statement idea is an interesting one, but I think such a statement would only tell you how much you’ve wagered, not how much you’ve won or lost. Also, there are plenty of people who never get a rewards card or who don’t use it all the time. For example, a married couple might share a card, but the husband with the gambling problem might not use it when he doesn’t want his wife to know he’s been doing extra gambling she doesn’t know about.

  2. Apparently this is becoming an epidemic. Terrance Watanabe insists he doesn’t owe Harrah’s $14.7 million because the casinos kept him constantly intoxicated with free drinks, making him incapable of being responsible for his decisions. You mean like the decisions to keep accepting those free drinks? Did they hold a gun to your head and shout, “Chug, chug, chug?”

    For the life of me, I cannot undertsan why there are not penalties against scumbag lawyers who encourage and assist their clients in filing frivolous lawsuits and/or defenses.

  3. sandy said

    I’m not ready to call the attorneys “scumbags” if their goal is to call attention to some of the casino industry’s predatory practices, like those lines of credit you mentioned, and serving free alcoholic beverages. Casinos serve free booze so because they know that an impaired gambler is more likely to lose control of his or her finances than one who is sober.

    Fortunately, in Detroit, legislation does not allow for free alcoholic beverages to be served in the three casinos. Alcohol is free in casinos in Pennsylvania. Among the things anti-casino gambling activists in Pennsylvania are trying to change are laws that allow the free booze to flow. Another is to limit the hours of operation. As I’m sure you probably know, most casinos operated 24/7.

    Regarding the attorney for Italo Mario Parise, from what I can tell, he is an anti-gambling activist and is more concerned with what his happening in Detroit (my hometown), than profiting from a lawsuit against MotorCity. He knows he can’t win against such a powerful industry.

    For my part, I’m glad that he’s speaking out. It dismays me that so little protest was raised against building three enormous casinos in Detroit, which has been experiencing a economic, cultural and social decline for many years now. Believe me when I say that Parise is not typical of the people who are losing in those casinos.

    • Well, casinos serve free booze to keep you at the tables gambling, that is certainly true. But Parise didn’t need free drinks to lose control of his finances, did he? Do you think more people bankrupt themselves in PA casinos than in Detroit ones because the booze is free in PA? I’d bet against it. People who are going to gamble injudiciously will do so with or without alcohol – it’s the gambling itself that is the addiction. The average person might lose a few hundred more than they can afford, wake up with a hangover, and learn a lesson from it and not make the same mistake again.

      Again, what you keep trying to sweep under the rug and forget about is the consumer’s free choice. No one forces you to go to a casino, gamble, or accept free drinks. (Personally, when I gamble I limit my drinking precisely because I want to keep my wits about me.) Yes, there are people with addictive disorders who do not have the necessary defense mechanisms to set limits on themselves, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Should we ban food because some people can’t stop eating? Why should I be prevented from accepting a free gin and tonic in a casino because Watanabe can’t hold his liquor? Since when is the goal of the law to restrict the freedoms of the innocent?

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