Advantage gambler James Grosjean beat the odds by winning a $400,000 judgment against a Strip casino that a jury agreed violated his rights four years ago.
The case's conclusion is unusual for advantage gambling cases, which are normally dismissed or settled out of court and for much less, usually between $15,000 to $20,000, according to several local attorneys.
In Grosjean's case, a Clark County District Court jury recently found Grosjean's rights were violated by the Imperial Palace when security guards at the Strip hotel-casino detained him and roughed him up.
The jury on Monday issued its verdict, which was unsealed by Judge Lee Gates on Thursday, awarding Grosjean $500,000 in punitive damages. A statutory limit, however, capped that award at $300,000.
Coupled with $99,999 in actual damages Grosjean was awarded late last month, he's set to receive nearly $400,000 for the ordeal, plus $18,000 in interest as well as undetermined reimbursements for legal fees and related costs.
"It's heartening to see that the citizens of Nevada get it," said Bob Nersesian, a Las Vegas attorney who represented Grosjean, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Chicago and author of "Beyond Counting," a "how-to" gambling manual on beating the odds in casinos. "They understand that people can't be rousted for no reason, and that casinos and the Gaming Control Board enforcement agents should be held to the same standards as the rest of us."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada also applauded the outcome.
"The decision reiterates the fact that people cannot be treated as criminals when they do not break the law," Allen Lichtenstein, the local ACLU's general counsel, said Thursday after the jury awards were unsealed. "The so-called 'advantage gambler' does nothing other than use his own brain and skills in ways that are totally legal.
"The illegality comes in when the casinos think that it is against the law for their customers to play the games well. By doing things such as detaining or throwing out advantage gamblers, the casinos become the lawbreakers. This award clearly verifies that fact."
Imperial Palace spokeswoman Jackie Brett declined comment on the case.
Officials said last year state regulations were being reviewed to make sure gamblers' civil rights are protected. Control Board members were unavailable for comment late Thursday.
The Grosjean case started on April 21, 2000, when he was handcuffed and detained by security guards at Caesars Palace for allegedly cheating. Grosjean was winning a card game thanks to a "sloppy" dealer and his own "hole carding," where a player tries to gain an advantage by catching glimpses of a blackjack dealer's unturned cards.
A spokesman for Park Place Entertainment Corp., as Caesars Entertainment was then known and which owns Caesars Palace, said casino records suggested he was suspected of marking cards, although Metro police said there was no record Grosjean was arrested or charged with any crime.
A police spokesman said at the time it is not unusual for a player to be detained while an investigation is in progress and then released if there is no probable cause.
Grosjean and a friend were detained at Caesars Palace for five hours and then taken to the Clark County Detention Center. Grosjean' friend was released the next day, but Grosjean was held in custody for 4 1/2 days.
Grosjean said last year that his problems escalated several weeks later when he visited the Imperial Palace.
"I wasn't even playing. I noticed a guard watching me, so I left, but he followed and he did get physical. He put his hands on my chest and he blocked me from leaving," Grosjean said.
Grosjean was handcuffed and led to a security cell by six guards who emptied his pockets, interrogated him and threatened "to smack his head against the wall."
The Imperial Palace incident "is absolute proof that (security officers) who affirmatively acknowledge they have no reason to detain someone, still feel at liberty to detain an individual, and the system and judges back each other up," Nersesian said.