Sam Antar Tells Third Circuit ‘Relentless Enticement’ by BetMGM Warrants Granting Appeal

Sam Antar, whose gambling addiction drove him to commit fraud, has filed a brief with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to overturn the dismissal of his case against BetMGM. At issue is whether New Jersey gambling operators are bound by the state’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), or whether those provisions are superseded by the Casino Control Act (CCA).

Antar, a former accountant, says he placed almost $30 million in bets at the BetMGM-owned Borgata online casino in 2019 and early 2020. He was later convicted of stealing over $550,000 from his clients to fund his gambling.

The original suit claims that the “relentless enticement” of Antar by his VIP Account Managers constitutes a violation of the CFA. However, courts have typically found that New Jersey’s Casino Control Act (CCA) supersedes the CFA for casino businesses, as its provisions are more specific. Under the CCA, the Division of Gaming Enforcement and Casino Control Commission (CCC) decide wrongdoing, not the judicial system.

Antar’s brief seeks to persuade the Third Circuit Court that his case is different. His legal team argues that previous cases have included factors explicitly addressed in the CCA but that Antar’s is more generic and, therefore, suitable for a jury trial.

The brief states:

New Jersey’s legislature protects consumers like [Antar] from the unconscionable business practices of business entities like [BetMGM] through one of the most expansive and progressive consumer protection acts in the United States. Unless there is an actual conflict between the CFA and CCA, there simply is no reason or precedent for the removal of that protection for no reason other than that the consumer is a gambler and the business is a casino.

BetMGM has until July 12 to file a response.

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No Duty to Protect Addicted Gamblers

The District Court ruling made headlines because Judge Madeline Cox Arleo appeared to criticize the relevant laws while siding with BetMGM. She wrote:

The New Jersey legislature, as the Court has already noted, has not yet seen fit to require casinos to prevent or stop inducing gambling from those that exhibit problem gambling behavior.

Debate ensued about whether legislators should change the law, or whether that would only create new problems.

However, Antar’s legal team emphasizes that his case has nothing to do with a duty—or lack thereof—to prevent disordered gambling. They seek to differentiate his case from the most important precedent, Taveras v. Resorts International Hotel, which hinged on that issue.

Arelia Taveras had blamed Resorts for allowing her to continue gambling and preventing her family from forcing her to leave the casino.

Antar’s team draws a distinction between the passivity of Resorts employees in the Taveras case and the active enticements allegedly offered by Borgata.

Another precedent is Hakimoglu v. Trump Taj Mahal Associates. That case involved employees continuing to serve alcohol to Ayhan Hakimoglu despite his apparent intoxication. However, New Jersey’s casino regulations include stipulations about alcohol. The brief argues that it was clearer that the CCA should take precedence over general laws in Hakimoglu’s case than in Antar’s.

A New Understanding of Gambling Disorder

Another interesting argument Antar’s team puts forward is that the understanding of disordered gambling has changed since those other cases.

The brief cites the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The American Psychiatric Association published the DSM-5 in 2013, while the Taveras case dates back to 2008. One of the changes to the DSM was to place gambling disorder in the same category as substance addictions. Previous editions classified it as an impulse control disorder.

The Taveras ruling includes references to “compulsive tendencies,” comparing her to a compulsive shopper and noting that shopping malls and credit card companies have no duty to protect such a person.

Antar’s team argues that the change in definition invalidates this analogy and renders the ruling out of date. The brief also points to the advent of online gambling, another factor that was absent in 2008.

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is an online gambling industry analyst with nearly ten years of experience. He currently serves as Casino News Managing Editor for Bonus.com, part of the Catena Media Network. Other gambling news sites he has contributed to include PlayUSA and Online Poker Report, and his writing has been cited in The Atlantic.
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