Queen of Sorts Sees Lawsuit vs. Foxwoods Dismissed
Edge-sorting expert Cheung Yin Sun, known in casino-security circles as the “Queen of Sorts,” has seen her lawsuit against Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino dismissed. Sun, who is also involved as a co-defendant with poker pro Phil Ivey in a different edge-sorting lawsuit involving the Borgata, failed in her initial attempt to secure her share of a $3 million lawsuit brought against the tribal casino.
Cheung Yin Sun was one of three plaintiffs in the case, along with two other high-stakes gamblers, Long Mei Fan and Zong Yang Li. The three collectively employed a similar edge-sorting scheme at mini-baccarat tables at Foxwoods in December of 2011 as that used separately by Sun and Ivey at several other casinos. Separately, the Ivey-Sun collaboration resulted in two other lawsuits over the legality of edge sorting schemes, at the Borgata in New Jersey and at London’s Crockfords Casino.
The episode involving Sun and her associates at Foxwoods involved several additional factors. Foxwoods prevailed in the ruling, issued Friday by US District Judge Janet C. Hall, by playing their legal ace in the hole, asserting that the entire case against Foxwoods and several individual Foxwoods-employed defendants was entirely invalid on the grounds of tribal sovereign immunity.
Judge Hall agreed with Foxwoods in her ruling, which was filed electronically on Monday. Wrote Hall:
The Court has reviewed all of the papers filed in conjunction with the Motions and [entered] an Order, absent objection, granting defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, dismissing plaintiff’s claims against defendant Michael Robinson; and granting defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, dismissing plaintiff’s claims against defendants Anne Chen, Jeff DeClerck, Edward Gasser, George Henningsen, Frank Leone, Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, Michael Santagata, and Chester Sicard.
Therefore, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that judgment is entered for the defendants, against the plaintiff and the case is closed.
The defense motions referred to by Judge Hall include the Mashantucket Pequots’ assertion of their sovereign rights, claiming that only a tribal court had jurisdiction in the matter. The tribe owns and operates the gigantic Foxwoods casino facility.
The dismissal of the lawsuit leaves some delicate issues unanswered. Attorney Sebastian O. DeSantis, representing Sun and the other two plaintiffs, today immediately filed an appeal to reopen the case, alleging judicial error and citing a 2011 Arizona case involving non-tribal “advantage players” who also found themselves detained, and their gambling money seized without any form of judicial redress.
That’s similar to perhaps the thorniest issue in the Foxwoods case. As things now stand, Foxwoods continues to maintain ownership of the $1.6 million in stake money that Sun and the other two Asian gambling whales brought to Foxwoods. The lawsuit by the three sought the return of that $1.6 million, an additional $1.1 million that the three plaintiffs “won” by employing their edge-sorting scheme, and an additional $300,000 — $100,000 per plaintiff — for alleged civil-rights violations.
That filing of the civil-rights infringement resulted in the case file being sealed from public view during many of the preliminary proceedings. It was also one of the means whereby plaintiffs’ attorney DeSantis hoped to establish the case’s jurisdiction in US District Court, rather than in a tribal hearing. Tribal court hearings throughout the US have a decades-long history of ignoring consumers’ legal complaints in cases involving casinos. Friday’s ruling will do nothing to dispel that image.
Whether or not plaintiffs’ attorney DeSantis succeeds in reopening the case remains to be seen. Among the issues raised by the Foxwoods defense team was that the process-serving done in connection of the lawsuit was invalid; DeSantis followed the rules for US federal cases, and the tribe and casino, in seeking to stymie the action, claimed that the process serving itself needing to be done according to somewhat different tribal-court rules.
Wrote DeSantis, in his appeal to reopen:
[As] Plaintiffs argue in their Reply, Defendants are attempting to invoke tribal laws concerning service of process that conflict with the Federal Rules of Procedure. If the individual Defendants acted unconstitutionally, as Plaintiffs have averred in their complaint, then they are not entitled to invoke sovereign immunity and thus the tribal laws concerning service of process are irrelevant. Respectfully, Plaintiffs ask the Court to realize that its ruling on the service of process issue was wrong and Plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with this suit; or else process was faulty and Plaintiffs should be allowed to reserve Defendants and start over.
Regardless of whether the gambling activity conducted by Sun and her associates was legitimate, the complaint filed by DeSantis there has some merit. It’ll be interesting to see if the case is reopened, or if an off-the-docket deal is done, perhaps refunding some or all of the plaintiffs’ bankroll, to make the matter go away.