PokerStars won a long-running legal battle in Illinois on Tuesday, as a judge granted a motion to dismiss a complaint against the company that was filed by Kelly and Casey Sonnenberg.
The decision by Judge David Herndon was welcome but expected after a similar decision he made last March to dismiss Kelly Sonnenberg’s class action suit.
Both lawsuits were attempts to recover money lost by playing online poker on PokerStars under Illinois’ Loss Recovery Act (LRA).
Under that law, those who lose money to an illegal gambling operator can be awarded up to triple the amount lost from the winner.
PokerStars Only a Service Provider, Not “Winner”
However, Judge Herndon found that PokerStars could not be determined to be a “winner” in the game, as they only collected a rake and did “not have a state in how the game is decided.” The judge also agreed with an argument by PokerStars’ attorneys that the Sonnenbergs failed to point out exactly what was lost, and to who.
“Specifically, defendants argue that other than identifying Casey Sonnenberg as a purported loser, plaintiffs failed to identify a single cognizable loser or a loss in that the second amended complaint does not plead basic facts, including: when the purported loss was incurred, to whom…the loss was sustained, and what is the amount of the loss in question,” Judge Herndon wrote in his decision. “The Court agrees with defendants and again finds that plaintiffs have failed to plead both loser and loss sufficiently.”
The judge also found that because the time and amount of the loss were not specified, the plaintiffs could not establish that enough time had passed for a non-loser to be a part of the lawsuit, as the LRA “plainly states that a non-loser plaintiff does not have a cause of action until the gambling loser has failed to bring suit within six months of the loss.”
In addition, the judge pointed out that it is impossible for Casey Sonnenberg, the supposed loser, to have brought the suit within the 6-month statute of limitations for losers to make their claim.
“April 15, 2011 was the last conceivable date on which any “losers” could have sustained any gambling losses,” the judge wrote. “The original complaint in this case was filed on August 24, 2012 (almost 15 months after the gambling site was shut down).”
Ifrah Calls Decision a Major Victory
According to Jeff Ifrah, the lead counsel for PokerStars, the decision represented a “significant” victory for the poker site.
“In what is traditionally a plaintiff-friendly court, the judge dismissed with prejudice the outlandish claims of two defendants who were motivated to file by their mothers,” Ifrah said. “Helicopter parenting doesn’t fly in the Seventh Circuit and our client is delighted to put this nonsense behind them.”
Using similar logic, Judge Herndon also granted a motion to dismiss a case against Full Tilt Poker (including Tiltware LLC and several named defendants such as Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel and Jennifer Harmon-Traniello).
The decision appeared to use similar logic to determine that Full Tilt Poker had not been a “winner” in its online poker games, as it did not directly make wagers against players, but instead collected rakes and fees.