Gambler's $20M lawsuit against casinos tossed

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed a $20 million racketeering lawsuit against seven casinos by a former New York City attorney who said they had a duty to stop her from gambling.

In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Renee Bumb wrote that Arelia Margarita Taveras failed to support her claim that gambling is a hazardous endeavor worthy of special protections.

"Playing blackjack, roulette or the slots bears no likeness to dumping toxic waste," the judge wrote. "She spent money on the bona fide chance that she might win more money. In short, she gambled."

Taveras, who now lives in Minnesota, argued that the casinos saw she clearly had a gambling addiction yet did nothing to stop it. She said she gambled nonstop for days at a time in the casinos, and lost close to $1 million in less than two years.

Taveras said she plans to appeal the dismissal.

"New Jersey does not recognize that casinos have a duty of care to gamblers, and people are dying because of it," Taveras said Monday, moments after learning of the decision.

Taveras told The Associated Press she dipped into escrow accounts she maintained for clients to finance her gambling habit. She was disbarred in June 2007 and faces criminal charges stemming from those actions, but said she is trying to work out restitution agreements in order to avoid prison.

Her lawsuit had named Resorts Atlantic City, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Tropicana Casino Resort, the Showboat Casino Hotel, Bally's Atlantic City, as well as the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The casinos denied any wrongdoing, claiming in court papers that Taveras brought her problems on herself. Resorts, where she said she did most of her gambling, had no immediate comment on the dismissal.