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Gamblers who lost $2M at Fallsview Casino lose another round in casino lawsuit

Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ont. (file photo)

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Four high-stakes gamblers who lost more than $2-million playing roulette lost another round Tuesday in a legal bid to get their money back — and it's left them on the hook for nearly $200,000 extra.

The four roulette players tried to sue Fallsview Casino and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, alleging that the Niagara Falls, Ont., casino's rule for what should happen in the event of a so-called floating ball was illegal.

The casino's roulette dealers were allowed to remove a ball if it was either stationary while the wheel was spinning or if it just continued to spin around the wheel for a long time without falling into a numbered pocket.

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The gamblers argued that the casino had to get the commission to approve the "floating ball" policy as a rule of play and since they didn't, all the roulette games there were illegal. They had sued for $14-million, but asked for the courts to at least make the casino return the millions they lost playing roulette.

Not only have two levels of courts now declined to make the casino give them any money back, but the courts have also ordered the gamblers to pay the casino and the commission's legal bills each step of the way.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed their case Tuesday, finding that the policy didn't constitute a rule of play and therefore didn't need the commission's approval.

The decision leaves the gamblers owing the casino and the commission $25,000 in legal bills. That's on top of the $170,000 the Superior Court ordered the roulette players to pay the casino and the commission after that court dismissed the case last year.

The four roulette players — Joaquim Moreira, Moshe Braunstein, Remo Gigliotti and Tebaldo Barbuscio — spent many hours playing roulette together in the casino's high rollers area, usually betting more than $1,000 a spin, since Fallsview opened in June 2004, according to an Appeal Court ruling.

They collectively lost $2.1-million, the ruling said.

Braunstein and Barbuscio borrowed $34,700 and $75,000, respectively, from the casino in 2006 and 2007 to support their gambling.

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Ontario Lottery and Gaming started demanding they repay their loans in late 2007 and early 2008, and a few months later the gamblers launched their lawsuit, the Appeal Court said.

The casino asked the Superior Court to dismiss the lawsuit before even going to trial and the judge agreed.

He ruled that even if the roulette games were illegal, the players weren't owed any money back because roulette dealers returned all bets on floating balls.

OLG had also sued Braunstein and Barbuscio in January 2009 for repayment of their gambling loans. As of January 2009, when that suit was launched, Barbuscio had repaid $11,000 of the $75,000, the Appeal Court said. The decision does not note how much, if any, Braunstein had paid back by then.

At the same time the Superior Court judge dismissed the gamblers' lawsuit, he granted the OLG lawsuit.

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