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Gamers bickering over high-roller mailing list

Aug 26, 2003 7:21 AM

Station Casinos Inc. (STN) has been operating the Thunder Valley Casino near Sacramento for just the past two months, but already another company has a bone to pick.

Station and one of its employees has been taken to court by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. (HET) over allegations that the employee, who wore Harrah’s pinstripes before moving to Stations, violated her employment contract by taking with her the names and backgrounds of a number of high rollers.

Kitty Chiu, who now attempts to attract high-end players to Thunder Valley Casino in her new position of director of Asian gaming, is charged in the suit with printing out hundreds of computer pages of personal client information in her former job. She then left Harrah’s for Sacramento.

Harrah’s says that within a short time it began hearing from some of their customers that they were being solicited by mail to visit Thunder Valley when it opened in June. Station operates the casino for a Northern California tribe.

Harrah’s is seeking an undetermined amount of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and the recovery of the client list.

Last month, Harrah’s was successful in getting a judge to issue a temporary restraining order to keep Chiu and anyone else from using the info allegedly derived from their client base.

Not involved in the suit is the United Auburn Indian Community, owner of the casino. The tribe has a long-term contract with Station Casinos Inc., the Las Vegas-based gaming company that provided the funding for the construction of the Vegas-styled casino.

The suit has particular interest not only to Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. but also to all the other operators of casinos in the Lake Tahoe and Reno areas. Thunder Valley Casino reportedly was an immediate success when it opened in June and is expected to attract a lot of the customers that in the past have crossed the state line to gamble in Nevada.

The next phase of the lawsuit is expected in late September when the courts will revisit the temporary restraining order and decide whether to keep it in effect.