Plaintiffs entered the Bicycle Casino’s no-limit poker tournament. It was originally advertised to have three qualifying days for the final day of play, when the top 10% of qualifiers would split the $200,000 guaranteed payout. But in the middle, after plaintiffs had already qualified, the casino declared an extra start day. This increased the total pot but resulted in a lower payout for each person in the top 10%. Plaintiffs sued for breach of contract, fraud and unfair business practices. The trial court held that this was a claim arising out of a gambling contract, precluding judicial resolution of any dispute as a matter of state public policy, and the court of appeals affirmed. The public policy bars judicial resolution of civil claims arising out of lawful or unlawful gambling contracts or transactions—you’re in the state of nature when you’re in the casino because gambling is immoral. Plaintiffs’ basic argument was that poker was a game of skill, not chance, and pointed to statements that the defendant had made—including in litigation—in support of this. However, the legislature had already classified poker as gambling, so that’s that.
Plaintiffs also argued that this was a case about false advertising and breach of contract, not the collection of gambling debts. The court disagreed. “The complaint seeks damages based on the theory that plaintiffs would have won more money if defendant did not offer an additional qualification round, which increased the number of people competing for and sharing in the same guaranteed payout.” That made it an action for gambling losses. Plaintiffs’ remedy was to complain to the AG and municipal authorities.