In 2008, Johnston, a horse racetrack executive, promised a $100,000 campaign contribution to then-Governor Blagojevich in exchange for his signature on a bill to tax the largest casinos in Illinois for the direct benefit of the Illinois horse racing industry. After Blagojevich’s corruption came to light, the casinos sued the racetracks, alleging a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, and state‐law claims for civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment. A jury awarded the casinos $25,940,000 in damages, which was trebled under RICO to $77,820,000. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the jury did not have legally sufficient evidence to support a verdict finding a conspiracy to engage in a “pattern” of racketeering activity, as required for liability on a RICO conspiracy theory. The casinos are still entitled to the $25,940,000 in damages on the state‐law claims, but not to have those damages trebled under RICO. View "Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Balmoral Racing Club, Inc." on Justia Law
Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Two mothers and their sons alleged that Internet gambling websites owe them the money that the men lost in gambling. An Illinois statute imposes criminal penalties on anyone who “knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any [such] game,” 720 ILCS 5/28-1(a)(12) and “any person who knowingly permits any premises or property owned or occupied by him or under his control to be used as a gambling place.” It provides that “any person who by gambling shall lose to any other person, any sum of money or thing of value, amounting to the sum of $50 or more ... may sue for and recover ... in a civil action against the winner thereof.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The sons, who used the websites, failed to sue within six months of their losses. The government shut down the sites in 2011. The mothers, who never gambled on the sites, have timely claims, but the defendants are not the winners of any game that their sons played, but are the sites that hosted the gambling. View "Fahrner v. Tiltware, LLC" on Justia Law
CEOC, the Chapter 11 debtor, owns and operates casinos. Caesars (CEC) is CEOC's principal owner. CEOC borrowed billions of dollars, issuing notes guaranteed by CEC. As CEOC’s financial position worsened, CEC tried to eliminate its guaranty obligations by selling assets of CEOC to other parties and terminating the guaranties. CEOC's creditors, who had received the guaranties, challenged CEC’s repudiation, seeking approximately $12 billion. CEOC, in its bankruptcy proceeding, asserted claims alleging that CEC caused CEOC to transfer valuable assets to CEC at less than fair value, leaving CEOC saddled with debt (fraudulent transfers) and that the guaranty suits will thwart CEOC’s multi‐billion‐dollar restructuring effort, which depends on a substantial contribution from CEC in settlement of CEOC’s claims, and will let the guaranty plaintiffs take precedence over other creditors. The bankruptcy judge, and a district judge refused CEOC's request to enjoin the guaranty suits until 60 days after a bankruptcy examiner completes his report. The bankruptcy judge’s exercise of jurisdiction over the other suits would have been constitutional, but he thought he lacked statutory authority to enter an injunction under 11 U.S.C. 105(a). The Seventh Circuit vacated, finding that the judges misinterpreted the statute and that issuance of a temporary injunction could facilitate a prompt wind‐up of the bankruptcy. View "Caesars Entm't Operating Co., Inc. v. BOKF, N.A." on Justia Law
In 1997, Player and his wife established EAR, purportedly to refurbish high-tech machinery . In 2005-2009, EAR defrauded creditors and the couple obtained $17 million in fraudulent transfers from EAR. Before the fraud was detected, they used funds for their personal benefit and spent large amounts at the Horseshoe Casino, Player was known to “walk with chips,” rather than cashing them in, and giving chips to a third party to cash in. Neither is illegal, but are potentially indicative of “structuring” transactions to avoid triggering the $10,000 reporting requirement, a federal crime, 31 U.S.C. 5324. When the fraud was discovered, EAR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The plan administrator sought to avoid transfers to Horseshoe, alleging that Horseshoe had reasons to believe that Player’s money came from EAR. Horseshoe objected to a motion to compel under 31 C.F.R. 1021.320(e), which governs Suspicious Activity Reports filed by financial institutions, including casinos, to detect money laundering and other violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. The district court ordered an ex parte filing by Horseshoe, which was inaccessible to EAR. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the motion, finding that Horseshoe accepted the transfers without knowledge of the fraud at EAR and could not have uncovered the fraud if it had investigated. View "Brandt v. Horseshoe Hammond, LLC" on Justia Law
Wisconsin’s Governor has entered into gaming compacts with all of the state’s tribes (Wis. Stat. 14.035). The HoChunk Nation adopted an ordinance, authorizing Class I and Class II gaming on its lands. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2703(6), (7), (8), defines Class I gaming as social games and traditional Indian gaming, regulated exclusively by tribes; Class II gaming includes bingo and certain nonbanked card games (players compete against one another rather than against the house) that are authorized by state laws. Class III gaming is a residual category, regulated under tribal-state compacts. A 2008 agreement between the state and the Nation does not restrict Class II gaming. Since 2010, the Nation has offered nonbanked electronic poker at Ho-Chunk Madison. Wisconsin sought an injunction to stop the poker, which, if classified as Class III would violate the Nation’s compact with the state. The district court ruled that the poker was a Class III game. The Seventh Circuit reversed. States may not prohibit a tribe from offering gaming that is roughly equivalent to what the state allows for its residents. A state must criminalize a gambling activity in order to prohibit the tribe from engaging in it. Wisconsin decriminalized nonbanked poker in 1999. IGRA does not permit interference with Class II poker on tribal land. View "Wisconsin v. Ho-Chunk Nation" on Justia Law
Illinois legalized riverboat casino gambling in 1990. Since then, the state’s once‐thriving horseracing industry has declined. In 2006 and 2008, former Governor Blagojevich signed into law two bills that imposed a tax on in‐state casinos of 3% of their revenue and placed the funds into a trust for the benefit of the horseracing industry. Casinos filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964, alleging that defendants, members of the horseracing industry, bribed the governor. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment for the racetracks, finding sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that there was a pattern of racketeering activity; that a jury could find the existence of an enterprise‐in‐fact, consisting of Blagojevich, his associates, and others; sufficient evidence that the defendants bribed Blagojevich to secure his signature on the 2008 Act; but that the casinos could not show that the alleged bribes proximately caused their injury. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, there was enough to survive summary judgment on the claim that the governor agreed to sign the Act in exchange for a bribe. View "Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Johnston" on Justia Law
The Ho-Chunk Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, operates casinos in Wisconsin and nets more than $200 million annually from its gambling operations. Cash Systems, one of three businesses involved in this case, engaged in issuing cash to casino customers via automated teller machines and kiosks, check-cashing, and credit- and debit-card advances. Whiteagle, a member of the Nation, held himself out as an insider and offered vendors an entrée into the tribe’s governance and gaming operations. Cash Systems engaged Whiteagle in 2002 as a confidential consultant. Cash Systems served as the Nation’s cash-access services vendor for the next six years, earning more than seven million dollars, while it paid Whiteagle just under two million dollars. Whiteagles’s “in” was his relationship with Pettibone, who had been serving in the Ho-Chunk legislature since 1995. Ultimately, Whiteagle, Pettibone, and another were charged with conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371) to commit bribery in connection with the contracts with the Ho-Chunk Nation and substantive bribery (18 U.S.C. 666). Whiteagle was also charged with tax evasion and witness tampering. Pettibone pleaded guilty to corruptly accepting a car with the intent to be influenced in connection with a contract. Whiteagle admitted that he had solicited money and other things of value for Pettibone from three companies, but denied actually paying bribes to Pettibone and insisted that he and Pettibone had advocated for Whiteagle’s clients based on what they believed to be the genuine merits of those clients. Convicted on all counts, Whiteagle was sentenced, below-guidelines, to 120 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence on the bribery charges, the loss calculation, and admission of certain evidence. View "United States v. Whiteagle" on Justia Law
The Tribe operates a Wisconsin casino and financed investment in a Natchez, Mississippi riverboat casino by issuing bonds backed by casino revenue. The bank, as trustee, alleged that the Tribe had breached a bond indenture and sought appointment of a receiver to manage the trust security on behalf of the bondholder. The district court dismissed, holding that the indenture was void, as a gaming facility management contract not approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission (25 U.S.C. 2710(d)(9), 2711(a)(1)), and that the Tribe's waiver of sovereign immunity in the indenture was consequently void. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The indenture was void so that the waiver of sovereign immunity cannot serve as a predicate for jurisdiction. The district court should have permitted the bank to file an amended complaint to the extent that it presented claims for legal and equitable relief in connection with the bond transaction on its own behalf and on behalf of the bondholder so that it could address whether the bank has standing to litigate claims on behalf of the bondholder and determine whether collateral documents, when read separately or together, waive sovereign immunity with respect to any such claims.
Illinois riverboat casinos filed a RICO suit (18 U.S.C. 1961) against racetracks, charging that the owner of two tracks, in cahoots with then-governor, Blagojevich, "bought" statutes requiring casinos to deposit three percent of their revenues to the "Horse Racing Equity Trust Fund" for disbursement to racetracks for use to increase purses and improve the tracks. The district judge issued, then dissolved, a temporary restraining order. The Seventh Circuit reinstated, so that no money is being disbursed, but on rehearing en banc, affirmed. The Tax Injunction Act forbids federal district courts to "enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law," if an adequate remedy is available in the state courts, as it is in Illinois 28 U.S.C. 1341. If unlawfulness can be traced to the racetracks, the casinos can seek damages from them. The Act does not bar federal monetary relief, but federal courts cannot freeze the stateâs tax moneys by imposition of a constructive trust. The court extended the TRO for 30 days pending petition for certiorari.