After losing $20.5 million in 14 months, Harry Kakavas has learned the hard way that the house always wins.
Mr Kakavas’ attempted to recover his losses with a claim that Crown Casino had engaged in unconscionable conduct by enticing him to gamble close to $1.5 billion with generous incentives including use of Crown’s private jet and lines of credit of up to $1.5 million.
In the High Court Mr Kakavas claimed that, in the presence of a baccarat table, his pathological urge to gamble was so compelling that he lost the ability to make rational decisions in his own best interests. The question was whether this put him at a special disadvantage and Crown, by exploiting that disadvantage and allowing him to gamble, had engaged in unconscionable conduct.
Mr Kakavas’ frequent trips away from the baccarat table to entertain guests and his month long voluntary sabbaticals from Crown answered those questions and the High Court dismissed his appeal.
The Court reaffirmed that there is no general duty on a casino to protect gamblers from themselves. The Court also said that a plaintiff who engages in risky business can’t call upon the principles of equity to recoup losses that arise from the outcome of risks that are inherent in the business.
This isn’t to say that Crown and other gambling operators are forever free from all responsibility. In the ordinary course of its business, a gambling operator may still engage in unconscionable conduct where a special disadvantage, such as age, incompetence or intoxication, is exploited. Perhaps all Harry Kakavas needed were a few more martinis...?