Let’s say that one day, you’re banned from a casino (for hitting a slot machine and breaking its “belly glass”). Years later, somehow, you’ve worked yourself back into that casino (hitting the slots and winning thousands).
How, exactly, should you cash in those chips?
The issue: Whether a casino (here, Prairie Meadows) had the authority to withhold winnings from a person who had been “involuntarily banned” from its gambling facility? The Iowa Supreme Court‘s answer: Yes.
The plaintiff, Mr. Blackford, sued the casino under a number of theories. The supreme court focused on his “conversion” claim. In what might be called ’Contracts 101 meets Statutory Gambling,’ the supreme court did away with Mr. Blackford’s conversion claim like this:
In this situation, Prairie Meadows is the offeror. It makes an offer to its patrons that, if accepted by wagering an amount and the patron wins, it will pay off the wager. Simply stated, the issue is whether Prairie Meadows made an offer to Blackford. Because Prairie Meadows has the ability to determine the class of individuals to whom the offer is made, it may also exclude certain individuals. Id.Blackford had been banned for life from the casino. He was provided a notice which provided as follows: “ON THIS DATE YOU HAVE BEEN ADVISED THAT YOU HAVE BEEN PERMANENTLY DENIED ENTRANCE OR ACCESS TO THE FACILITY OF PRAIRIE MEADOWS RACETRACK AND CASINO.” Under an objective test, unless the ban had been lifted, Blackford could not have reasonably believed he was among the class of individuals invited to accept Prairie Meadows’s offer. The jury found that the ban against Blackford had not been lifted, and, therefore, Prairie Meadows had not extended him an offer to wager. Because there was no offer to him, no contract could result. Without the contract, Blackford could not show a possessory interest in the jackpot, and his conversion action must fail.
I wonder if Mr. Blackford pursued a claim for unjust enrichment? Just as the slots paid out to Mr. Blackford, he paid into the slots. What’s good for the goose, I say. If the casino had no contractual obligation to pay Mr. Blackford because it had not “extended him an offer to wager,” the casino has no contractual right to keep those repeated wagers.