CHICAGO (CN) – Three Las Vegas gamblers accused of cheating Harrah’s Casino claim they were simply good at playing keno and the casino maliciously prosecuted them on baseless charges of tampering with the game’s code.
Svetoslav Dorobanov, Paul Jovenich and Randy Binning are professional gamblers that rely on their experience to give them an edge over other casino players, according to a federal lawsuit they filed Tuesday in Chicago.
In 2013, Binning says he learned from other players that certain keno machines at some Harrah’s casinos seemed to be offering better payouts than normal.
He traveled from his home in Las Vegas to play these machines at Harrah’s Casino in Joliet, Ill., where he won a significant amount of money over 18 days.
Binning then traveled to another Harrah’s in Tunica County, Miss., where he played the same machines and again won a lot of money, he says.
After going home to Las Vegas, he told his two friends Dorobanov and Jovenich about the machines, and they too traveled to Joliet with Binning to play, winning a considerable sum.
“The plaintiffs simply played the game as offered to any other casino patrons, by pushing the game’s buttons with their fingers,” the complaint states.
They also freely admit that they took “all safety precautions they could think of to preserve the game as long as they could, as wise advantage players are apt to do. Most importantly, they cashed out their winnings in small amounts so as not to attract attention of any kind; not by casino employees, nor by other gamblers, in order to insure the continued availability of the advantageous keno machines.”
The games were turned off 48 hours after their arrival, a decision that the players say did not surprise them.
Dorobanov and Jovenich then returned their rental car and rented a new one from a different company to be sure they could not be tracked home with their cash winnings, according to the lawsuit.
Binning did not take this precaution and was stopped by police in a traffic stop in Flagstaff, Ariz. The police seized his cash winnings of $400,000 and then seized his safety deposit box in Joliet that contained another $190,000.
The gamblers believe the casino might have tipped off authorities nationwide to find Binning.
“Plaintiffs demand to use their discovery power in this lawsuit to determine if there was any foul play involved in Mr. Binning’s traffic stop in Arizona and the seizure of his money that might present new related claims or defendants,” the complaint states.
Binning, and later Dorobanov and Jovenich, were all charged with theft for having tampered with the keno machines, but they claim they did nothing illegal and had no way to tamper with the machines’ code.
In fact, the game manufacturer WMS Gaming admitted that the larger payouts resulted from a coding error, and none of its personnel had any contact with the players, according to the complaint.
“While [the players] had ascertained how to increase the amounts paid through the particular denominations they bet, they did not physically manipulate the machine in any way, did not use prohibited devices, nor did they collude with or receive any inside information about the machines from anyone working at the manufacturer,” the complaint states. “By claiming to the prosecutors, judge, and grand jury that the plaintiffs had stolen the money and manipulated the machines illegally, and by failing to tell the truth, these defendants caused the plaintiffs to be wrongfully arrested and prosecuted.”
WMS Gaming paid Harrah’s parent company Caesars $2 million to settle the casino’s claims against it, but allegedly continued to blame the players for its losses.
The players say Caesars encouraged the game maker to prosecute them “even though Caesars knew that Mr. Binning had done nothing illegal.”
Dorobanov, who is also a world-ranked chess master, says that he particularly suffered extreme hardship due to the fact that his wife was pregnant with twins as he awaited trial, and he was banned from entering any casino until a judge dismissed all charges against the gamblers in 2015.
The three men seek compensatory and punitive damages for violations of their civil rights and malicious prosecution. They are represented by Amanda Yarusso with Jackowiak Law Offices in Chicago and Marvin Vining in Monticello, Miss.
The defendants in Tuesday’s complaint are Caesars Entertainment, Harrah’s Illinois, WMS Gaming, Bally Gaming, two Illinois State Police officers and unknown employees of the Illinois Gaming Board.
Caesars and Harrah’s did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.