CORRECTED: Australian gambler sues casino over A$1.4bln binge

(Corrects paragraph 4 of Oct 30 item to remove reference to CEO, who is not mentioned by name in the relevant court document)

CANBERRA (Reuters) - An Australian gambler who lost millions in a A$1.4 billion ($909 million) gaming spree is suing one of the country’s largest casinos, claiming he was targeted by managers despite a known gambling addiction.

In a case which lawyers say could have implications stretching to China, gambling addict Harry Kakavas is suing Crown Casino in Melbourne for A$50 million damages after a mammoth 14-month baccarat binge in which he lost A$37 million.

At the time in 2007, property developer Kakavas had been barred from every casino in Australia.

But the Supreme Court in Victoria state was told that Crown’s management did not “give a monkey’s” about a prohibition in place since 2004, the Age newspaper said.

Supreme Court documents said Kakavas wore a concealed recorder that captured Crown managers allegedly attempting to lure him back to its riverside baccarat tables.

Crown is owned by Australian billionaire James Packer, who also operates Crown Macau and is developing a second casino project, The City of Dreams, in the Chinese territory. Last year the company reported profits of A$370 million.

“We have no intention of responding to the allegations made publicly. We are defending the action vigorously,” Crown spokesman Gary O’Neill told Reuters.

Crown Chief Executive Rowen Craigie and Chief Operating Officer John Williams face accusations of unconscionable conduct while in charge of Crown, which this month reported revenue from table games and gaming machines up 4 percent as Packer looks to expand in Macau.

Court documents in Melbourne alleged that emails detailed a Crown plan to lure back Kakavas after managers discovered he had lost millions of dollars gambling in Las Vegas.

If found guilty, Crown could be judged to have breached Australia’s Trade Practices Act, state gambling regulations and special laws covering the high-profile casino’s operation.


Reporting by Rob Taylor; editing by Roger Crabb