Iowa court allows casino to withhold winnings

Kathy Woods Feb. 17, 2010, 7:00pm

David Baker

DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline)-The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a casino may withhold winnings from a patron whom it had banned from its premises a decade earlier.

The case, decided Friday, found that the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa, may deny winnings to Troy Blackford, whom had been "involuntary excluded" from the casino.

Blackford went to the Prairie Meadows Casino on May 5, 2006, where he won $9,387, including one large jackpot.

Through filling out IRS forms for the large jackpot, it was discovered that Blackford had been permanently banned from entering the casino premises because of a 1996 incident where he broke a slot machine's belly glass.

In 1998, Blackford was once again escorted off the premises and given trespass charge to which he pleaded guilty and paid the fine.
After the casino refused to pay his winnings, Blackford filed a lawsuit in the Polk County District Court claiming conversion, libel, false imprisonment and abuse of process.

At trial, the district court concluded that "once a person is banned from a facility, it is not within the rules for the person to be present or to gamble at the facility. All promises, agreements, or contracts that arise from wagers or bets are void, unless the wager is authorized under Chapter 99F. A person who is excluded from a facility under the rules of the Racing and Gaming Commission would not hold a legally binding agreement with a gaming facility for payment of the winnings. Therefore the facility would not be required to pay winnings to such person."

Blackford appealed the ruling and the appeals court found that the lower court erred, saying they found no statutory provision that allowed the casino to confiscate a player's winnings.

The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice David Baker, said that under Iowa law the casino can kick out anyone for any reason as long as it does not fall under the constitutionally protected such as: race, creed, color, disability or national origin.

The case is Blackford v Prairie Meadows Racetrack, No. 08-0586.

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