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Gambler loses case against Australian casino

He claims casino facilitated his pathological betting despite knowledge of his problem. -AFP

Tue, Dec 08, 2009

MELBOURNE - A compulsive gambler who wagered close to 1.4 billion US dollars (S$1.946 billion) during a 16-month betting spree lost his lawsuit against Australia's largest casino Tuesday when a judge ruled he was not exploited.

High-flying property developer Harry Kakavas claimed Melbourne's Crown Casino facilitated his pathological betting, despite knowing he had a problem that was so severe he had already been banned from one establishment.

Kakavas, 42, who police had barred from entering Sydney's Star City casino, had sued Crown, claiming it "lured" him with gifts and free flights on a private jet to bring him to Melbourne.

But judge David Harper ruled the casino had not preyed on the baccarat-loving Kakavas and ordered him to repay one million dollars (S$1.269 million) in debts.

"He was not a person so helplessly entrapped by his love of cards that he found it impossible to resist Crown's attentions," Harper told the Victorian Supreme Court.

"He was the highest of this country's high rollers," added the judge.

"He enjoyed some spectacular wins. In the end, however, he lost all he won, and more."

Harper said Kakavas never suggested he was incapable of maintaining his high-roller status and had been unable to produce evidence that the casino had conspired to exploit him.

"Crown had no conception of Mr Kakavas as suffering from any kind of relevant disadvantage," the judge said.

Kakavas was a prolific gambler who had tried his luck in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Macau and the Bahamas, the judge said.

His lawyers had argued the Sydney exclusion order should have been enforced Australia-wide by casino authorities, including Crown.

Instead, his defence said, the Melbourne casino knowingly offered to fly him to the city on at least 14 occasions and left him gift boxes of 50,000 (S$63,520) dollars in "lucky money" on the private jet to help him gamble.

During a period of 16 months in 2005 and 2006 Kakavas allegedly turned over 1.5 billion dollars (1.37 billion US), and was allowed to bet single hands of 300,000 dollars (S$381,120).

He was eventually banned from Crown after blowing more than two million dollars (S$2.54 million) on the card tables in just 43 minutes in August 2006.

Kakavas lost a total of 30 million dollars (S$38.11 million), and sued Crown and its executives for about 20.5 million (S$26.04 million).

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