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Man sues casino for 10 years losses

Jennifer Chambers / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Italo Mario Parise has sworn off gambling for good.

The 61-year-old professional engineer indulged his appetite for cards, slots and game tables at MotorCity Casino in Detroit for a decade, losing $673,854 of his own money.

Looking back, Parise says he believes he was brainwashed by the casino to keep coming back to gamble more.


And now that he says his head is clear, Parise -- who says he hasn't set foot in a gambling hall since March -- wants his money back from the casino he blames for his losses.

In what appears to be the first lawsuit of its kind in Michigan, Parise is suing MotorCity Casino to recover his money, claiming the gambling house had a duty -- under an obscure Michigan law -- to stop him when he was down.

The statute -- called "gaming: action by loser" -- has been on the books since 1961 and remained there after the passage of Proposal E, which established non-Indian casinos in Michigan in 1996.

In the suit, to be heard Friday in Wayne Circuit Court, Parise alleges the casino "knew or should have known of his enormous financial losses" and did not make any attempt "to aid" him in stopping them.

In an interview with The Detroit News, Parise said the casinos market themselves as places of entertainment when they are in, in his opinion, illegal operations that deceive the public.

"These places, they suck people in. It's not gambling, it's brainwashing. They take money from you until it is gone," he said.

MotorCity's lawyers say the lawsuit is "frivolous" and are seeking to have the case dismissed and sanctions filed against Parise's attorney.

Rick Kalm, head of the Michigan Control Gaming Board, called the lawsuit "unusual" and said he is not familiar with the 1961 law. A spokesman with the Attorney General's office declined to comment on the case or the statute.

In preparation for the case, Parise's lawyer, Frank A. Cusumano, said he searched for other lawsuits using the statute to recover losses and could find none, suggesting this case is the first of its kind in Michigan.

Lawyers for MotorCity said no Michigan statute exists that allows a casino patron to sue a casino for gambling losses. Attorney Patricia Nemeth said Detroit Entertainment, which operates MotorCity, says the company does not comment on pending litigation.

But in a court filing on behalf of Detroit Entertainment, attorney Deborah Brouwer says nothing in the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, which governs casinos, states that a person who loses money at a Detroit casino may sue for recovery of those losses.

Such a provision "would be the death knell for the Detroit casinos, none of which would be able to remain in business if forced to return gambling losses to disgruntled gamblers," the brief says.

Robert Stocker II, a Lansing attorney and gaming law expert with Dickinson Wright, said the law allows a person to pursue a cause of action only in cases of illegal gaming in Michigan. The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act specifically authorizes casino gambling in Michigan and says any other law inconsistent with that is nullified.

"Attempts periodically are made throughout the United States by an individual to recoup gaming losses. I'm not aware of any specific cases with success. Lots of very creative attempts have been made but generally this stuff is not successful," Stocker said.

Lawyers for MotorCity said compulsive gamblers get help from the state already via a $2 million compulsive gaming prevention fund to assist problem gamblers, a toll-free compulsive gaming helpline number and the ability to be placed on a "disassociated persons list." A person on such a list is barred from three Detroit casino halls for life.

As of Aug. 19, the list contained the names of 2,221 people.

Cusumano maintains he has a viable case against the casino and has set up a Web site,, with a page on how to sue casinos to recover gambling losses. He says the law actually dates back to 1827 when Michigan was a territory and has remained on the books since statehood in 1837.

Parise, who filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy in Detroit in 1996 and had his case discharged or cleared in 2000, gambled from 2000 through March 22 of this year, losing $577,549 at the slots and $96,305 at table games such as blackjack.

During the time period cited in the lawsuit, Parise says he won $5,450.

Parise says he has lost opportunities for business contracts because of his gambling losses. He says he went to MotorCity officials and placed himself on a house ban until the end of the year. He has no plans to place himself on a disassociated person's list because he maintains he is not addicted to gambling and has no plan to gamble again.

"I have no desire to gamble. I swear on my father's grave. You can't win. It will ruin your life," he says.

Ballsy--I'll give him that!
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