PokerStars Granted Dismissal Of Illinois Loss Recovery Case

March 27th, 2015 | by Kaycee James
PokerStars Illinois case dismissed motion

PokerStars was granted the dismissal of a case against them in Illinois. (Image: Wikimedia Commons/Seal of Illinois)

PokerStars may not have much of a presence in the United States anymore, but they’re still finding ways to win in the USA.

Judge David R. Herndon of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted PokerStars’ motion to dismiss a case against the company in Illinois on Tuesday, ended a saga that has stretched over the past 2.5 years in which some players had sought to recover losses they allegedly sustained on the site.

The case involved Illinois’ Loss Recovery Act, a statute that allows losers in illegal gambling operations to sue to recover as triple the amount they lost from the winner.

In a case filed by Kelly Sonnenberg and Casey Sonnenberg, the plaintiffs had hoped to recover money that they claimed Casey had lost on the site.

Similar Class Action Case Dismissed Last Year

However, the case was always a long shot for the Sonnenbergs. Last year, Judge Herndon had dismissed a class action lawsuit filed by Kelly Sonnenberg, pointing out that PokerStars wasn’t really a winner in the games since they did not wager against players. Rather, they were “more akin to a third party service provider that provides a forum for others to play the game.”

That logic was once again part of Judge Herndon’s decision to dismiss the case against PokerStars. The same language appears in the most recent decision, along with the point that “there are no allegations that defendants won Casey Sonnenberg’s money.”

There were plenty of other holes poked into the case by Judge Herndon as well. He pointed out that while Casey Sonnenberg was purported to be a loser, there was a lack of basic facts presented about the case, including “when the purported loss was incurred, to whom…the loss was sustain, and what is the amount of the loss in question.”

There were also several issues regarding the time frame of case. For one, the judge pointed out that the Loss Recovery Act has been interpreted to have a six-month statute of limitations during which the loser of a bet can try to recover their money. Casey Sonnenberg didn’t take legal action until late 2012, which was well over a year after PokerStars stopped allowing Americans to play on their site.

Conversely, non-loser plaintiffs must wait at least six months from a given loss before they can take action; without alleging a date or amount of a loss, it was impossible for other plaintiffs to make a specific claim, the judge wrote.

A Significant Victory for PokerStars

The clear victory for PokerStars was called “significant” by Jeff Ifrah, lead counsel for the company.

“In what is a traditionally plaintiff-friendly court, the judge dismissed with prejudice the outlandish claims of two defendants who were motivated to file by their mothers,” Ifrah said after the motion to dismiss was granted. “Helicopter parenting doesn’t fly in the Seventh Circuit and our client is delighted to put this nonsense behind them.”

A separate but similar case against Full Tilt Poker was also dismissed on the same day by Judge Herndon. The case, brought by Judy and Daniel Fahrner, ran into the same difficulties as the Sonnenbergs’ lawsuit, with Judge Herndon saying that it was impossible to establish that Full Tilt Poker had been a winner in any meaningful sense.


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