Sore Losers Seek To Recover From Sweepstakes
Here’s the story:
The lawyer who won a legal battle against the sweepstakes games at the Birmingham dog track has set a new legal goal: recovering millions lost by gamblers who played the illegal sweepstakes.
Matt Lembke and members of his Birmingham law firm have filed a lawsuit against the Birmingham Race Course seeking to recover under a state law that allows customers to sue for money lost at illegal gambling, Lembke said Tuesday.
“The Legislature has made clear that people who offer illegal gambling cannot keep their ill-gotten means,” Lembke told The Associated Press.
Lots of interesting issues here.
First, Lembke is right that the Race Course can’t keep the money, but it is not so clear who does get to keep the ill gotten gains. Here’s the statute (Ala. Code 8-1-150) Lembke’s using:
All contracts founded in whole or in part on a gambling consideration are void. Any person who has paid any money or delivered any thing of value lost upon any game or wager may recover such money, thing, or its value by an action commenced within six months from the time of such payment or delivery.
But here is Section 13A-12-30:
Money used as bets or stakes in gambling activity in violation of this article is forfeited to the state and by court order shall be transmitted to the general fund of the state.
So will the state try to intervene in the lawsuit so as to protect its interest in the money? Or will they compromise? You can see there is a six month time limit on private suits. So anyone who lost money before May 4th 2006 is SOL. There is no such limit to the state’s power. So the state could collect everything accumulated prior to May 4th. We’ll have to wait and see.
Also noteworthy, any successful plaintiff better not ever make anyone in the DA’s office mad. I mean, if you are one of the plaintiffs, you’re basically publicly admitting that the money you seek to recover was “used as bets or stakes in gambling activity.” Not only does that let every authority figure know what you did, but it’s also all the state has to prove for purposes of forfeiture. Hence, by suing to recover the “ill-gotten gains” the plaintiffs are inviting the state to then sue them for forfeiture.
It will be a class action, but the article does not indicate if the suit is in state or federal court. Last year’s Class Action Fairness Act provides for removal to defendant friendly federal court so long as one plaintiff is from a different state as any defendant and the amount in controversy is at least five million. It sounds like the amount won’t be an issue. As for the plaintiffs, I can’t imagine very many out of staters visiting the Race Course, but it does not take very many for removal. Again, we’ll have to wait and see.
Finally, who does the Alabama Christian Coalition root for here? Class actions and trial lawyers are just as much tools of Satan as is gambling. Here’s John Giles on the Race Course case:
Gambling opponent John Giles, president of Christian Action Alabama, praised the ruling.
“We maintained from day one the sweepstakes gambling operations were unconstitutional and illegal,” Giles said.
But here’s Giles on trial lawyers:
Trial lawyers are one of the biggest threats to the erosion of our U.S. Constitution, traditional family values and religious freedoms in Alabama and America today.