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Jury Rules Against Claim Of Inebriated Gambler

June 30, 1989

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A jury ruled today against a high-roller who claimed an Atlantic City casino plied him with alcohol and painkillers, forcing him to gamble until he lost $165,000.

A federal jury deliberated for about three hours Thursday and today before finding that Shmuel Aboud, 44, of New York City must pay a $28,000 gambling debt he amassed in 1985 at the Golden Nugget Casino-Hotel.

Aboud had contended he suffered from narcotic and alcohol intoxication and the casino took advantage of his condition.

The jury ruled that the Golden Nugget acted negligently, but that the casino’s action did not cause Aboud’s gambling losses.

″This tells the patron that they can’t get drunk and blame someone else,″ Golden Nugget attorney Steven Horn said after the verdict. ″We think that this claim was totally frivolous - a lie - and the jury believed it.″

Aboud’s attorney, Steven Goldman, asked the judge to poll the jury. He said he is considering filing an appeal.

″He was sleeping at the table,″ Goldman said during closing arguments Thursday in the lawsuit filed by Aboud. ″His head was rocking back and forth from nodding.″

The civil case was being closely watched by the state’s casino industry and attorneys involved in the case say the outcome could be precedent-setting.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Mitchell H. Cohen ruled that casinos can be held liable for money lost by drunken gamblers. Today verdict meant that the jurors believed however that in Aboud’s specific case the liability didn’t exist.

The judge had ruled that casinos, like tavern owners, have a responsiblity to their customers, prompting speculation that the decision could mean that casinos will stop serving free drinks.

″It will affect the casino industry - not greatly,″ Horn said. ″This ruling by the judge could be overturned or define more clearly in a way that will make it difficult for the patron to prevail.″

Aboud, an Israeli citizen, contends he lost $165,000 during a gambling spree at the Golden Nugget in February and March 1985 after casino officials coaxed him to drink alcohol and take narcotic painkillers for his aching back.

″This man lived a horror story for two weeks - the big Golden Nugget and little Sammy Aboud,″ Goldman told the jury. ″The guy was like a zombie.″

The Golden Nugget filed a lawsuit in 1985 against Aboud seeking payment of gambling debts totaling $28,000 that Aboud amassed at the casino.

The casino has since been sold. It became Bally’s Grand in 1987.

″Nobody put a gun to Mr. Aboud’s head,″ said Stephen N. Dratch, an attorney for the casino. ″He is looking for someone to blme for his own foolishness.″

Aboud filed a counterclaim against the casino, claiming he was ″deprived of his reason and understanding″ after casino officials offered him drinks while he gambled.

He had sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. But Cohen refused to allow the jury to consider the punitive claims, ruling that Goldman failed to present evidence of the casino’s wealth.

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