Park Place wins appeal

Apr 16, 2003 4:30 AM

BY MARK MAYER

Park Place Entertainment is confident justice will turn out lovelier the second time around. A federal judge last week ordered a new trial and said a judgment against the gaming giant was likely a "mistake."

"We are very satisfied how things have worked out," PPE head of media relations Robert W. Stewart told GamingToday upon notification from U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan to grant the company’s request for a new trial in a civil case filed by California resident Steven Mattes.

Park Place lost a multi-million judgment against Mattes last Nov. 14, when a federal jury ruled that the high-rolling California gambler was defrauded by the casino giant and its Paris Las Vegas resort.

Mahan’s ruling, released to GamingToday from Park Place, cites that the verdict is "rife with errors and leaves the Court with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.

"Plaintiff proved no actionable defamation or fraud and it is simply impossible to determine the evidentiary basis for the jury’s damages awards," Mahan wrote. "These errors are only compounded by the flawed verdict form, which prompted the jury to prematurely consider punitive damages without instruction from the Court."

No date for the new trial has been set.

Mattes was awarded more than $8 million in the original trial, when the jury determined that Park Place bosses fraudulently created bogus markers, inflated the customer’s losses and backed out of an agreement to provide him with a $2 million credit line after losing millions of his own money at the tables.

Park Place had filed a motion with the U.S. District Court of Nevada for a new trial on Dec. 5 of last year. GamingToday attempted to reach Beau Wiseman, an investigator hired by attorneys for Mattes during the initial trial, but the calls were not returned.

"We thought the verdict was internally inconsistent," Stewart said. "We will highlight some of the inconsistencies at new trial. Not all the facts were brought out in the first trial and we are very happy to be able to get another opportunity to set the record straight."

Stewart said he did not make it a practice to predict cases, but felt confident that the judge’s latest action provides a boost to PPE’s case.

"I am sure the facts will come out in the new trial," he said. "As far as negotiating a settlement with Mattes, I’d say it’s way too early to talk about that."

During the first trial, Park Place suspended Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas casino host Tom Bonanne after he admitted borrowing as much as $250,000 from Mattes.

A week after the Nov. 14 verdict, Park Place named Wallace Barr to replace Thomas E. Gallagher as president and chief executive officer. Stewart denied at that time any connection between the judge’s decision and the administrative switch.

Park Place Entertainment owns, manages or has an interest in 28 gaming properties operating under the Caesars, Bally’s, Flamingo, Grand Casinos, Hilton and Paris brand names. The corporation employs 55,000 people worldwide.