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Howard Stutz

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Gaming Attorneys Say California Ruling Won't Trigger Slew of Lawsuits

8 Jun 2005

By Howard Stutz

CALIFORNIA -- A California Supreme Court decision allowing a class action lawsuit that alleges false advertising by Nevada casinos to proceed in a Los Angeles courtroom shouldn't lead to a rash of legal filings, gaming attorneys said Tuesday.

Monday's unanimous ruling, which allowed a California customer's lawsuit to continue against Harrah's Entertainment, was too case-specific to affect any other matters, commented several Las Vegas lawyers who specialize in gaming matters.

In 2002, Frank Snowney of Los Angeles filed a class action lawsuit against Harrah's properties, claiming that in 2001 he made a reservation at a Harrah's resort, which said the room would cost $50 a night plus room tax.

However, the final bill carried a $3 energy surcharge that Snowney claimed was never disclosed by the casino.

The 20-page ruling by the California justices did not discuss the case's merits. It only allowed the lawsuit to proceed in California.

"I really don't think you'll see a lot of slip-and-fall cases popping up in California against Las Vegas casinos because of this ruling," said Lewis and Roca gaming attorney Tony Cabot. "This has to do with a specific marketing and advertising campaign. What the justices said was that because the corporation came into the state to advertise, the matter could be heard in California."

Cabot said Harrah's could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but doubts the federal panel would hear the matter.

A Las Vegas litigation attorney, who asked not to be named, said she believed the justices' written opinion was so tied to the particular case that it might not be applicable to any other similar matter involving advertising.

"The facts set forth are very specific," she said. "I don't see it having a lot of usage."

Harrah's had argued the case should be moved out of California because the company didn't have any businesses or bank accounts in the state. A Superior Court judge agreed, but the decision was reversed by the California Court of Appeals. The State Supreme Court affirmed that decision.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Harrah's has opened an Indian casino in San Diego County.

A spokesman for Harrah's declined comment, saying the litigation was pending.

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