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PPE Las Vegas Case
Originally posted on Green Chip by LVBear,
Blogger of The Bear Growls
My layman’s analysis of the PPE case
I spent time at the federal courthouse studying the case file, and came to several conclusions, based on my examination of the public records. To my own surprise, I found myself agreeing with the trial judge that the evidence did not support the jury’s award.
It appears to me that some PPE executives definitely lied to the patron/plaintiff, and conducted themselves in a disgusting, reprehensible manner, but that the plaintiff did not really sustain any damages as a result. PPE’s sleazy tactics were typical of casino managers, just on a larger scale, since this individual appeared to be a VERY high-rolling ploppy. Even though his name has been widely reported in the newspapers, and is part of the public record, I’ll just call him “M” – no point in embarrassing him further.
Over several years, PPE, through the Las Vegas Hilton and Bally’s, had extended large marker lines to M (“credit,” which really isn’t credit at all, as has been discussed here before – it’s really check-cashing privileges, but we’ll call it “credit” for the purposes of this report only). The total “credit” extended to M over the years was approximately $48 million. He usually, but not always, paid it back without any problems.
At the Hilton, M once took eight months to pay off a marker, and offered to put up his California residence as collateral to secure the debt and stave off the legal action that the Hilton was contemplating. The file didn’t make clear whether they were planning to simply sue M civilly, or get the DA’s Office to criminally prosecute him for “bad checks.”
At the time of the incident that was the basis of the litigation against Paris and PPE, Bally’s was holding $15,000 in bad checks from M (actual checks, not markers).
M had recently won $1.4 million from Bally’s, and had received a check from them, that had not cleared Bally’s bank at the time of the Paris incident. It is not clear why the $15,000 in bad checks M wrote to Bally’s was not deducted from their check of $1.4 million to him.
Nevertheless, Paris extended an invitation for M to come to their opening weekend in 1999, and promised a two million dollar credit line. They sent a private jet for him, and he, along with an entourage of relatives, was full RFB.
M played blackjack at a private table for forty straight hours, without sleep, usually betting three hands of $15,000 each. Paris gave him special privileges, such as being able to select when the dealer would shuffle the double deck game he was playing. Letting him select the shuffle point makes it obvious that the casino considered him a ploppy – can you imagine them letting a skilled player select the shuffle point?
M did not drink alcohol, but plenty of coffee, according to the records, and tipped “generously.”
M lost all but $8000 of the $2 million “credit” line, and was told he’d have to stop playing if he lost the final $8000. Instead, M offered to “agree” to have Bally’s stop payment on the $1.4 million check that had not yet cleared Bally’s bank, if that money could be used to reduce the nearly $2 million debt, and allow him to continue to play. M contends that the $2 million was “revolving credit” – PPE denies this.
Payment was stopped on the Bally’s check, and the money applied to the nearly $2 million debt. But then, M was told, “no more ‘credit.’” PPE denies having ever offered “revolving credit,” and denied agreeing to let him continue to play on credit. In my opinion, they are lying about this, because M would have had no reason to ask them to apply the Bally’s check to the Paris marker. He could have just used the additional $1.4 million to play with. There was no reason for M to “agree” to Bally’s stopping payment on the check. PPE’s story makes no sense, and it appears from the verdict that the jury also believed the PPE witnesses were lying. Sleazy and disgusting behavior by the Paris managers, but what are the damages? They probably saved M more losses, a fact that M admitted to in his testimony.
Paris management then contacted the Hilton, who, despite having the previous collection problems with M, agreed to extend another $1 million in “credit.” PPE witnesses testified that PPE “credit” decisions are made separately by each property, and need no central corporate-level approval.
Paris then sent the sleep-deprived M to the Hilton in a limo, where the additional $1 million “credit” awaited. It is not clear whether or not he lost that, too, and it’s not relevant to the lawsuit.
More sleazy behavior by PPE included reporting M as “slow paying” to competitors, even while they continued to extend him “credit” themselves. Also, in the prior Hilton agreement over the late payments, PPE insisted that M sign an agreement not to gamble at any competitor’s property until his debt to Hilton was fully repaid. Violation of this agreement would result in immediate legal action (probably criminal prosecution for “bad checks”). But again, what are the damages?
Hurting his own case, after his gambling spree was over, and M was ready to leave Las Vegas, he negotiated a settlement with Paris regarding the $2 million in markers. The $1.4 million Bally’s check was credited; Paris “forgave” another $490,000 in losses, and M gave them a check for the relatively small balance, and signed an agreement with Paris that his balance there was now zero. He told his host that he was “not happy” with the treatment he had received.
M admitted that he never asked for surveillance videos to be retained to help determine if the total of the alleged losses was correct. Much of his play was “rim play,” where a casino employee keeps track of the ongoing markers being issued. The markers are not individually signed during rim play, which is different from normal marker procedure. Rim play creates enormous potential for theft and abuse by dishonest casino employees. However, theft was not alleged.
Common sense would dictate that the tapes should be preserved with a high roller of this magnitude being “not happy,” but apparently common sense was not applied. There was conflicting testimony over whose decision it was to destroy the tapes, but there was no testimony by M that he‘d specifically requested their preservation. M’s wife testified specifically that M did NOT request preservation of the tapes. Again, indications of sleaziness and/or incompetence by PPE, but nothing more.
My conclusion is that M was angered by the treatment he received. Amazingly, he didn’t think that the “forgiving” of nearly a half-million dollars of his losses was sufficient recompense from Paris for their sleaziness, and went on a campaign to embarrass them.
In my opinion, the lawsuit has little merit. It started out in Los Angeles County Superior Court (Burbank) as a complaint for unfair business practices, alleging that the offer of “credit” was illegally made in California, because M was in California at the time he received a phone call from his casino host in Las Vegas, offering the $2 million “credit” line. It seems like a trivial and frivolous suit to me. One of his complaints was that a casino host referred to him as a "patsy" and "an easy mark." Big deal! It appeared that the host was right.
PPE was eventually able to get it into the federal court system, because of “diversity of citizenship.” From there, it was an easy transfer from the federal court in California to Las Vegas, for the “convenience” of the parties. M’s attorneys opposed this transfer, accusing PPE of “forum shopping.”
PPE, of course, tried to grind M down with numerous motions and other delaying tactics. Finally, it did get to trial, with the resulting $8 million jury award.
M was certainly lied to and mistreated by Paris employees, but he offered no solid evidence of their falsifying records or inflating his losses. Indeed, they gave him nearly a half-million of his losses back!
I think the jury was probably outraged by the obviously lying witnesses PPE put on, and wanted to teach them a lesson. Several of the PPE witnesses couldn’t remember much of anything, and claimed not to know much about casino procedures, though one of them was described by his superior as “a very highly paid casino executive.” Their lies mainly consisted of denying that they had promised to extend more “credit” to M if he “agreed” to have Bally’s stop payment on the $1.4 million check. Obviously they promised to extend more "credit." There is no other reasonable explanation for M agreeing to the stop payment. The fact that M agreed is not in dispute.
M came across to me as a whiny rich guy, shocked that his “friends” at the casino would treat him this way after he tapped out. He should spend some time as an advantage player to see what mistreatment really is.
Being tricked and lied to by a casino executive is not worth $8 million, in my opinion, as much as I dislike casinos. If I'd been on the jury, I would have awarded M One Dollar for his trouble.