Indiana high court to hear blackjack case

Kathy Woods Apr. 6, 2010, 11:18am

INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline)-The Indiana Supreme Court this week will hear a contract dispute involving professional blackjack player Thomas Donovan.

He is suing the Grand Victoria Casino. The high court will decide whether the casino had the right to kick Donovan out for allegedly counting cards.

Donovan had allegedly had a deal with a former pit boss, Patrick Banfield, that he could play at the casino if he wagered no more than $25 per hand.

Banfield was replaced in June 2006 with Sonny Duquette.

Donovan continued to play there until August, when he was barred from the blackjack tables. He was told he could play other games, just not blackjack.

Donovan filed a complaint in September 2007 in the Marion County Superior Court for breach of an implied-in-fact contract. He also sought an injunction that would allow him access to Grand Victoria.
The casino filed a motion for summary judgment and the trial court granted the motion.

Donovan appealed the decision, arguing that the casino breached their contract with him. The casino argued that the casino's offer was on a hand-to-hand basis. Each completed hand fulfilled the obligations of the parties.

The Indiana appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. There were four issues which they consolidated into one: whether the trial court erred when granting summary judgment to the Grand Victoria.

Both parties agreed to the facts of the case; the only dispute is the applicable law. The casino says they can exclude anyone for any reason as long as no civil rights are violated.

Donovan, however, argues that this is how he makes his living and he has a right to pursue the vocation of his choice.

The appeals court found that with all the rules and regulations that deal with the game of blackjack none dealt specifically with the art of counting cards.

According to court documents, "no law, regulation or duly promulgated rule advised Donovan that the skill of card counting was prohibited."

Therefore, the appeals court found that Grand Victoria may not exclude Donovan from playing blackjack for counting cards.

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