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Court Says Mothers Of Poker Players Can't Recover Money Lost By Sons On PokerStars

Attempt To Get Money Back Falls Short In Federal Court


A federal court in Illinois has found that former poker players on PokerStars can’t recover their losses from years ago.

According to Courthouse News Service, the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago said that anti-gambling laws in the state don’t allow losses to be recovered in this case because the poker site facilitated the games by taking a rake, rather than competing against the customers head-to-head like in blackjack. That was just one of the reasons given in the six-page ruling issued Jan. 15.

Two mothers and their sons, Kelly and Casey Sonnenberg and Judy and Daniel Fahrner, were at the center of the case that dates back to 2012. The mothers said that PokerStars, as well as Full Tilt, owe them money.

They have been trying to use the Illinois Loss Recovery Act, a law on the books that says “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 […] may sue for and recover the money or other thing of value […] in a civil action against the winner.”

The law does have a six-month statute of limitations on a gambler recovering his or her losses, but that’s where the mothers come in. There is a provision that says that after six months “any person may initiate a civil action against the winner” to recover “triple the amount” of the gambler’s loss. The sons don’t have a case themselves because they waited more than a year after Black Friday in April 2011 to seek legal action.

This statute dates from an era of strong opposition in Illinois to gambling.

The court did add that regardless of the type of game, a ruling in favor of the gamblers could be a slippery slope and lead to others seeking similar action.

“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,” the judge wrote. “A gambler knows that the money he puts in the pot is at risk.”

The Illinois ruling is in stark contrast to one issued late last year by Kentucky. That state said that PokerStars owes it $870 million from losses incurred by 34,000 Kentuckians from late 2006 to April 2015. PokerStars is appealing the ruling.

“Given that PokerStars only generated gross revenues of approximately US$18 million from Kentucky customers during the five years at issue, a damages award in excess of US$800 million is notable only for its absurdity," Amaya Gaming, parent company of PokerStars, said.

Tags: PokerStars,   Illinois