Wheel of Fortune may prove costly in Michigan case

Nov 27, 2001 2:30 AM


The ultimate payoff on a Wheel of Fortune slot machine, unfortunately, could come in a Michigan courtroom.

Mary Kraft, a Michigan slot player, has filed suit against the nation’s biggest gaming equipment maker and two of the largest casino operators alleging that the wheel is rigged.

Kraft’s accusation against International Game Technology and gaming giants MGM Mirage and Mandalay Resort Group is that the machine misleads players into thinking a spin is a random act when in fact it isn’t.

The suit alleges that such misrepresentation violates Michigan consumer protection laws, according to a ­­Reuters story.

Kraft’s attorney, Steven Wasinger, said that the thousand of Michigan gamblers who played the machines could be owed more than $10 million if the ruling in is their favor.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said the machines were certified for use by Michigan gaming regulators, and thus should be considered lawful for use in the state.

“I think a court will dispense of it pretty quickly,” Feldman said of the case, which was filed in July at Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit.

Both IGT and Mandalay had no comment on the case.

An attorney specializing in gaming litigation said that Kraft may have a hard time proving her case to the judge.

“Their position defies logic and common sense,” the attorney said. “Everyone knows that the chance of winning $1 million is substantially less than the chance of winning $1 on any gaming device. If the chances were equal, we wouldn’t have them.”

The next court date is set for December, according to Wasinger.

Court backs police in Tennessee case

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently voted to permit police to seize video gambling machines on sight instead of requiring proof that the slots pay off.

“The way to hurt them is in the pocketbook,” John Gill, a former U.S. attorney, told The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville. Gill is the special counsel to Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols, who is a Democratic candidate for governor.

The Supreme Court ruling came in a Clarksville case in which a bar owner, who had six video poker machines in a padlocked backroom, was charged with possession gambling devices.

Rhonda Burkhart, the bar owner, claimed the state law was “unconstitutionally vague” regarding video poker machines.

Delta Downs license invalid

A Louisiana district court in Baton Rouge declared that the slot machine gaming license for Delta Downs racetrack was invalid.

The ruling stated that the track’s former owner, Shawn Scott, needed to undergo a suitability check before the license could be granted. Both Boyd Gaming and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, which had issued the license, will seek to have the decision overturned.

Opposition for the Delta Downs plans came from several casino companies with business in Louisiana, including the Isle of Capri. The objection was based on a claim by Delta Downs to the public that the operation would be only about 500 machines.

Boyd Gaming purchased Delta Downs last May for $125 million.

Trump to make $73M payment

Millionaire casino magnet Donald Trump said he would be making a $73 million payment within days to cover interest past due on bonds.

Trump had announced on Oct. 31 that he would not make the payment. If he fails to make payment by the end of November, Trump would be in default and bondholders would have the right to send the company that issued the debt, Trump Atlantic City, into bankruptcy.

Trump has been hurt by the events of Sept. 11 along with the recent legislation that called for increased gambling in New York State in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and the Catskill Mountains.

Attorney David Friedman said Trump is now more willing to pay his bondholders.

New Mexico will add more slots

A new Indian gambling compact could add hundreds of new slot machines at New Mexico’s Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino by next month.

The Albuquerque Tribune reported that Sunland officials had pushed for a change in state law during the last legislative session, clearing the way for more slots.

The Southern New Mexico track is ready to double its number of slots machines from 300 to 600 with 30 days.

New Mexico law allows tracks to operate a maximum of 600 machines, plus another 150 leased machines. The Downs operates its racetrack and casino in conjunction with the State Fair, which acts as landlord.