Gamblers who lose big at Seminole Hard Rock Casino sue to recover losses

10:29 PM, Mar 26, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- There's legal trouble brewing over what some consider illegal gambling going on at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

That's because the banked card games, blackjack and baccarat are in violation of state law after the compact Governor Charlie Crist signed with the Seminole tribe was ruled invalid by the Florida Supreme Court. However, a spokesman for the Seminole tribe says the Department of Interior, which regulates Indian gambling, ruled the compact legal. The tribe says what it is doing complies with federal law.

Attorney Michael Trentalange says without a compact, what is going on at the casino is illegal.

That's why Trentalange is suing to recover losses of more than $15,000 by two of his clients. He says a statute dating back to the 1930's and 40's gives gamblers, their families and even their widows the ability to recover gambling losses if the gambling was conducted in violation of the law.

While you might think it is logical to file the suit against the casino where the men lost the money, that's not possible because the Seminole tribe is a sovereign nation. Instead, the men are rolling the dice and taking a crap shoot to go after the guys with the deep pockets who they say are aiding an illegal enterprise.

The defendants are Clear Channel Outdoor for billboards promoting Blackjack at the Casino, Bally Technology which tracks the players' winnings and losses, and Chipco International which makes the chips. The three companies were not yet aware of the suit and had no comment.

However, the men better hope they don't get people like Isabella Massaro on the jury. Outside of the Seminole casino she asked why they are coming to the gambling palace if they don't want to lose money. Massaro says she doesn't think someone is twisting their arm to come inside.

But Trentalange isn't discouraged and he is betting he is holding a winning hand.

He says if you run an operation like this and there is a statute on the books, he thinks you need a better defense than, "You can't be serious."

Mike Deeson, 10 Connects

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