The MGM Grand Detroit has escaped paying over $6 million to a dozen investors who lost their money to an “admitted” fraudster who repeatedly and unsuccessfully played at the casino’s blackjack tables, according to a recent Michigan Court of Appeals’ ruling.
The Detroit Free Press reported the MGM Grand gave credit — known as markers — and perks to the gambler identified as Gino Accettola, now 52. The casino also failed to check his credit, even though he did not have a regular salary and was found guilty of financial crimes, the report said, citing the court decision from judges Jane M. Beckering, Mark J. Cavanagh, and Cynthia Diane Stephens.
“Substantial sums of money” were given to Accettola by the investors some five years ago. He promised to invest the money in construction projects in Florida and Michigan.
When [the] plaintiffs learned there were no such construction projects, they sued Accettola in 2016 for fraud and similar claims, and obtained a judgment against him. While attempting to collect, [the] plaintiffs learned that Accettola did not have any assets or lawful income, and Accettola admitted in an affidavit that he had gambled away the money [the] plaintiffs gave him at [the] defendant’s casino,” the judges’ ruling said.
“According to [the] plaintiffs, a background check would have revealed that Accettola had no employment or other source for the millions he used to gamble at [the] defendant’s casino,” the trio of judges wrote in the opinion. “It also would have revealed that he had a criminal history involving identity theft and larceny.”
Also, MGM also gave Accettola free or discounted rooms at hotels and he was given complimentary gifts and meals. “Records submitted by [the] plaintiffs show that Accettola was an inveterate gambler who had frequented [the] defendant’s casino several times a week for years before any of the plaintiffs gave him any funds to invest,” the judges’ ruling added.
Even though the appellate judges said Accettola was “a terrible gambler,” the MGM Grand had acted in “good faith” and followed “standard business practices.” The judges further said the hotel simply did not know the gambled money was earned through fraud, the news report said.
“There is no evidence that [the] defendant had, or should have had, knowledge of Accettola’s financial situation at the time he gambled, or should have known the alleged source of the funds with which he gambled,” the appellate judges argued. “We conclude that [the] plaintiffs have failed to show that [the] defendant’s casino was not acting in good faith when it acted in accordance with its normal course of business as a casino.”
But Attorney Corey Silverstein, who represents the investors, told the Free Press, “This guy was treated like royalty with all my clients’ stolen money.”
Legal Theory Rejected by Michigan Judges
The appellate judges further rejected a legal theory that would have required the casino to consider Accettola’s weak skills at gambling.
“Requiring the casino to provide reasonably equivalent value that accounts for each gambler’s individual skill level would place an untenable burden on casinos to identify poorly skilled players and either exclude them from their premises or restrict them to only those games at which they exhibited fair knowledge and good basic strategy,” the judges said.
It was further alleged in a different court case that Accettola had a lavish lifestyle, according to the Macomb Daily. Accettola is currently in prison after getting sentenced for seven to 30 years.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board has placed Accettola on its Exclusion of Persons List, which prohibits some disgraced players from entering the three licensed casinos in Detroit.
MGM Grand Detroit Court Cases
The MGM Grand Detroit was involved in earlier legal issues. Last August, in a separate case, MGM Grand Detroit officials argued in legal filings that uncollected player gaming debts shouldn’t be taxed by the state government.
Also, a Michigan teacher who blew $31,000 of school money on penny slots at the MGM Grand Detroit was sentenced in 2018 to probation. The teacher pleaded no contest to embezzling money from student activities at a Macomb Township school.
Lydia Johnson was a Spanish teacher at Dakota High School and must repay $30,000 to the Chippewa Valley school district. WXYZ-TV says she also must get help for a gambling problem.