Judge denies Asher appeal; Next battle: Damages

Apr 26, 2016 3:00 AM

Joe Asher, who currently heads the operations of bookmaker William Hill here in Nevada, has been in a very protracted legal battle with his former partners and employers at Cantor Gaming (now known as CG Technology) and their affiliated companies, collectively called Cantor.

Cantor contends that when Asher left their partnership he took proprietary business relationships and other “business know how” and started his own bookmaking company called Brandywine using plans and relationships originally developed for Cantor. Asher of course disputes this and thus years of legal battling began.

The legal battle was split into two parts: The first to determine if there were facts and merit to Cantor’s claims; the second to determine the damages to Cantor if any. Cantor won the first round when presiding District Judge Mark Denton found in their favor.

Before the second part could start though, Asher’s legal team decided to challenge the applicability of Nevada’s statute of limitations in a case that was to be judged under Delaware law in a Nevada court. Asher’s side took the challenge to the Nevada Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments from the parties back on St. Patrick’s Day.

The proceedings were streamed and those of us who watched heard heady arguments as to why or why not Delaware’s statute of limitations should or should not apply. The only sensational moments in the proceedings came during the oration of Cantor’s attorney Todd Bice who declared Asher had stolen from his (Asher’s) former partners (at Cantor) and suggested the Court not intervene in the matter.

The legal arguments presented by both sides were impressive and well reasoned and pending the ruling of the court stood to potentially become a new precedent for Nevada courts.

Because of the weighty nature of the issue and congestion within the court, it was generally expected the court’s ruling would come out sometime between the end of May and the middle of June. So it was a bit of a surprise to see the court issued its ruling on April 21.

On seeing the ruling had been filed and given the direct and indirect importance of the topic, it was somewhat expected the ruling would be lengthy, filled with legal logic, reasoning and other case references. Instead it was simple, very directly to the point and read as follows:

“This is a petition for a writ of mandamus, or in the alternative, prohibition, directing the district court to apply Delaware’s statute of limitations on contract disputes to a contract containing a choice-of-law provision favoring Delaware law. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Mark R. Denton, Judge.

“After considering the petition, briefs, parties’ oral arguments, and post-hearing motions, we conclude relief is not warranted at this time. Accordingly we ORDER the petition DENIED.” Signed by Justices Douglas, Cherry and Gibbons.

What this means for the parties is simple, the trial can advance to the next phase and determine if Cantor suffered damages from the actions of Asher and if so how much those damages should be.

The process will be complicated as after Asher started Brandywine, he later sold it to William Hill for a price tag of $14.25 million and a convertible loan of $1.4 million. Cantor will probably argue that all those proceeds should have been theirs; Asher will probably argue to the contrary and claim cost against those amounts so the fight should be over profits and opportunities from then to now.

Even if damages awarded are nominal, there is another point that will have to be fought over and that is attorney fees. Usually the winning party in lawsuits such as these will also receive additional amounts to cover reasonable attorney fees. In this case, given the sheer amount of hours committed by a small army of lawyers, it is likely to be a huge number.

With the amount of money involved and the seeming angst between Asher and his former partners at Cantor, even when the second phase is completed, it is most likely the case will be appealed until either all appeals are exhausted or one side or the other runs out of money to continue.

On top of the money issues, Asher is likely to have to fight the case all the way anyway. After all, as a gaming-licensee he will need to worry about the impact of any losses in this case on future gaming licenses when he is examined under the business ethics and business probity standards by impartial regulators.

The Analyst is an experienced gaming industry executive who offers insight each week on events and issues affecting the industry. Contact The Analyst at [email protected].