A PATHOLOGICAL gambler has failed in his bid to sue Melbourne’s Crown Casino for the millions of dollars he lost at the venue.
Gold Coast property developer Harry Kakavas lost $30 million during the 15-month, $1.5 billion gambling spree in 2005-2006.
Kakavas, 42, was taking civil action against Crown Casino, its chief executive Rowen Craigie and its chief operating officer John Williams in the Victorian Supreme Court for more than $20 million.
He argued that the casino had preyed on his gambling addiction.
Justice David Harper ruled today that the casino did not prey on Kakavas and ordered the gambler to pay back the $1 million he owed the casino.
«Crown was not in a position to prey on him,» Justice Harper said.
«Despite his attempts to persuade me to the opposite conclusion, he was not a person so helplessly entrapped by his love of cards that he found it impossible to resist Crown’s attentions.»
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Justice Harper said Mr Kakavas used his power to exclude himself from the casino as a bargaining chip when negotiating the terms of his patronage with Crown.
He said Mr Kakavas never suggested to Crown that he was anything other than capable of maintaining his high roller status.
Kakavas also failed to produce any evidence of a conspiracy by Crown to exploit him, Justice Harper said.
«Crown certainly wanted his custom,» he said.
«People like him fed its business. But Crown had no conception of Mr Kakavas as suffering from any kind of relevant disadvantage.»
However, Justice Harper did make some criticism of Crown in his judgement saying its relationship with Mr Kakavas did not give him confidence that the casino was a world leader in responsible gambling as it claims.
Mr Kakavas lost his money on the Baccarat table.
His Crown gambling spree ended when he lost more than $2 million in just 43 minutes.
Mr Kakavas also lost millions on the gambling tables of Las Vegas.
A hearing on costs and whether Mr Kakavas will be required to pay interest on the $1 million he has to pay back to Crown, will be held on December 16.
Report wants laws to protect problem gamblers
Gaming operators had been closely watching the case and will be relieved at the outcome.
There was a concern amongst operators that the case may have set a precedent where gambling addicts could sue venues for their losses.
But a report by the Productivity Commission has recommended that laws be created to allow gamblers to sue venues that encourage them to play despite knowing they have an addiction.
The new laws should also bring in penalties for venue operators that induce problem gamblers to continue playing, the Commission’s draft report on gambling said.
James Packer authorised cash gifts
Despite the win, the case had proved an embarrassment for Crown’s executive chairman, James Packer.
The court had heard that cash payments of $30,000 and $50,000 — authorised by Mr Packer but kept secret from his father Kerry — were occasionally left in gift boxes inside the Crown jet when it picked up Kakavas at Coolangatta airport, just to «get him started».
Kakavas’s barrister Allan Myers QC had also alleged that casino executives had developed «a scheme to lure» the Gold Coast gambler back to their casino after they discovered he lost between $3 million and $4 million on a short trip to Las Vegas in 2004.
The court heard that casino executives were aware Kakavas had served jail time for fraud and had a separate charge of armed robbery dropped.
Despite this, they were happy to fly him to the Philippines in the casino’s Learjet on two occasions, and provide him with free accommodation at Crown Towers under the pseudonym «Harry Kay».
Executive didn’t care about ban
In a secretly recorded conversation with Kakavas, senior executive Richard Doggert allegedly said he «didn’t give a monkey’s» that the NSW Police Commissioner placed an exclusion order on Kakavas in 2000 preventing him from entering Star City Casino in Sydney.
Between June 2005 and August 2006, Kakavas turned over almost $1.5 billion at Crown’s baccarat tables.
His total losses reached upward of $30 million.
The casino had denied executives targeted Kakavas.
-with AAP and The Australian.
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