Illinois Gamblers Can’t Recover Online Losses | Courthouse News Service
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Illinois Gamblers Can’t Recover Online Losses

CHICAGO (CN) - Two mothers and their gambling sons cannot recover money the sons lost on online casinos under an Illinois anti-gambling law, the Seventh Circuit ruled.

Kelly and Casey Sonnenberg and Judy and Daniel Fahrner claim that Amaya Group Holdings and Tiltware owe them the money that the two sons lost gambling on Amaya and Tiltware's websites.

Illinois law makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly operate a website that "permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any [such] game."

The Illinois Loss Recovery Act permits a gambler who lost more than $50 in an illegal game to recover their losses from the winner.

If the gambler doesn't sue the winner within six months, then the law allows any person to recover triple the amount of the gambler's loss.

While the sons' claims are untimely, the mothers' are not, the Seventh Circuit noted.

But "their problem is that the defendants are not the winners of any game that any of the plaintiffs (or their sons) played," Judge Richard Posner wrote for a three-judge panel.

While Amaya and Tiltware take fees out of the winner's pot for running their gambling sites, "charging a fee for engaging in gambling is not the same as winning a gamble; a croupier who supervises a casino's poker game is not a gambler, let alone a winner," the six-page ruling states.

Posner found it unreasonable to read a private right of action against the operators of illegal sites in the civil loss recovery law, given that criminal penalties are already imposed by the state.

The Sonnenbergs and Fahrners' interpretation of the law would also go against the public's interest in discouraging gambling, the Chicago-based appeals court ruled Friday.

"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," Posner wrote.

The judge concluded by stating that, "A gambler knows that the money he puts in the pot is at risk."

"It is not a risk he has to take; he takes it because he hopes to win the pot, or simply because he likes gambling or risk taking in general," Posner wrote. "If he loses $50 he may well say to himself 'I'd rather have won, but $50 wasn't too high a price to pay for a night of gambling, and en route to losing $50 I did after all win some nice pots and get compliments from the guys I was playing with.'" (Emphasis in original.)

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