Gambler, detained at Vegas casino, seeks bigger court award

Carson City, Nevada – Lawyers for regulators and a Las Vegas casino were grilled Tuesday by Nevada Supreme Court justices during a hearing on claims by an expert gambler that he should get more damages because he was illegally detained and roughed up by security guards.

The questioning began after an attorney for James Grosjean urged the high court to double the USD 150,000 damage award that the Imperial Palace hotel-casino was ordered by a lower court to pay following the April 2000 incident.

Attorney Thea Sankiewicz also asked the high court to let her client sue the state Gaming Control Board for additional damages because of the involvement of GCB agents in the case.

Chief Justice Nancy Becker and Justices Michael Douglas and Ron Parraguirre repeatedly questioned why lawyers for the Control Board and the casino were arguing for immunity given the manner in which Grosjean was detained at the club.

Becker said the case was troubling because about halfway through the 45-minute incident a Control Board agent said Grosjean should be released because there was no reason to hold him – but security guards didn’t immediately turn him loose.

Instead, Sankiewicz said Grosjean remained in handcuffs and was searched a second time before he was finally released. She also said that when Grosjean was initially confronted by the guards, he wasn’t gambling and was merely walking through the resort.

Deputy Attorney General Antonia Cowan, representing the Control Board, said GCB agents acted reasonably. She said Grosjean had been under surveillance and was acting in a „very suspicious“ manner.

Imperial Palace lawyer David Thomas added that the security guards didn’t slam Grosjean’s head into a wall, as Sankiewicz claimed. He also said the guards had immunity from lawsuit because they were operating as „an adjunct“ to the state agents when they detained Grosjean.

The high court will issue a decision in the case at a later date. After the hearing, Grosjean said he was pleased to see the way in which the justices questioned the state and casino lawyers, adding, „It’s clear they read the case.“

Grosjean also said the incident was „pretty scary“ even though it wasn’t the first time he’d been confronted by security in casinos. Grosjean, author of „Beyond Counting,“ a „how-to“ manual on beating the odds in casinos, added it’s odd that some resorts „believe one little gambler is going to destroy them.“

Grosjean initially won a $ 500,000 jury award in the Imperial Palace case, but a Clark County District Court judge cut it to USD 300,00 and later to USD 150,000. Additional damages in the case brought the total award to just under USD 250,000.

A favorable high court ruling would push the award from the Imperial Palace up to about USD 400,000.