Casinos all over the country have implemented bad beat jackpots, where players are rewarded for losing a hand with the very worst of bad beats. But two Los Angeles residents filed a lawsuit in 2009 stating that jackpots that took money from each pot to build the reserves were illegal under California state law. And one year, later, the case against five Los Angeles casinos has been dismissed by the judge.
The case was filed in the L.A. Superior Court on May 1, 2009, by Dennis Chae and Jeff Kim, two recreational poker players who felt that they should not have to pay into the jackpots to have the chance to win them. They sued five card rooms - Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hustler Casino, Hollywood Park, and Hawaiian Gardens - on the basis that California law requires jackpots to be open to all customers, even to those who choose not to contribute to the jackpot. The lawsuit sued for false advertising and unfair competition, the right to push the case to class-action status, a court-ordered end to the jackpots, and an undisclosed monetary damages sum was part of the case.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the case was dismissed less than one year after its filing. At the hands of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emile H. Elias, the case was thrown out of court, with the judge noting that state law prohibits players from suing in court to recover gambling losses. “Plaintiffs chose to play the games despite the knowledge that they would be charged,” he wrote.
The judge was referring to the $1 fee collected from each pot in the poker games to compile the jackpot that would ultimately be awarded to players meeting the requirements of the bad beats, meaning a very strong hand is beat by an even rarer and stronger hand. Various casinos charge different fees, but all offer the bad beat jackpots that often range from five to six figures by the time they are awarded. Only certain tables at each casino participate in the jackpot, and players must be seated, and dealt in to the hand, at those tables in order to be eligible. Thus, Chae and Kim contended advertisements that there is no purchase necessary for the jackpots were illegal, and rules applying to lotteries should also be applied to said jackpots.
The way casinos skirt the law is by contending that players compete with chips that have no cash value, despite the players having to purchase the chips. Players do not pay into the jackpot, therefore, with real money.
Stuart Pfeifer of the L.A. Times interviewed an attorney for Commerce Casino, Andy Schneiderman, who said, “We had every confidence the case would be dismissed because all of the games we offer are approved by the state, including jackpot games. There are a lot of plaintiffs attorneys out there looking to make money, but we don’t feel we’re vulnerable to attack.”