Many poker players love the idea of bad beat jackpots, as the worst beat can sometimes pay off many times over by the casino. Online websites and land-based casinos have both begun implementing such jackpots over the years, and California card rooms are no different. But those jackpots may be rendered unworkable by state law if two Los Angeles residents have their way.
According to the Los Angeles Times, two players defined as recreational players filed suit in the L.A. County Superior Court on May 1 against five L.A. card rooms - Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hustler Casino, Hollywood Park, and Hawaiian Gardens. The lawsuit is based on the California law that allows for jackpots without requiring players to pay a fee. Casinos were warned in 2005 that any jackpots have to be open to all customers with no purchase required or they would be in violation of lottery statutes.
When Dennis Chae and Jeff Kim attempted to compete for the jackpots in L.A. casinos without paying the $1 per pot required, they were denied and chose to take their case to court. The lawsuit alleges that the casinos are guilty of false advertising and unfair competition, and the plaintiffs seek class-action status in the hopes of finding other poker players to join the case against the casinos. Seeking undisclosed monetary damages, Chae and Kim also hope to end the bad beat jackpots altogether.
One of the claims is that the casinos make a profit from the jackpots. Attorneys for the plaintiffs assert that casinos charge “administrative fees” of 15 percent to 25 percent upon collecting the jackpot fees from players, which amounts to profit for the casinos and less for the players who contributed. It is on this basis that they charge the casinos have violated the state lottery laws.
Several casino spokespeople noted that the promotions comply with the laws and do not require that players compete for the jackpots, as other tables are provided without the $1 fees. Managing general partner of the Bicycle Casino Haig Kelegian told the L.A. Times, “They’re just doing this to try to figure out a way to sue somebody. We have always had no purchase necessary.”
Bad beat jackpots are popular with most players, but the plaintiffs in this case may find casino patrons willing to join the class action suit. If so, the lawsuit could be taken to a new level and set a precedent that has the potential to affect casinos - online and land-based - across the United States.
Several of the casinos named by Chae and Kim have yet to respond to the charges, but the L.A. County Superior Court will likely see a formal response from attorneys in the coming weeks.