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Sonnenberg v. Amaya Grp. Holdings (Iom) Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 15, 2016

KELLY SONNENBERG, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
AMAYA GROUP HOLDINGS (IOM) LIMITED, formerly known as Oldford Group, Ltd., et al., Defendants-Appellees. JUDY FARHNER, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
TILTWARE, LLC, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued November 2, 2015.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Nos. 3:13-cv-00227-DRH-SCW, 3:13-cv-00344-DRH-SCW -- David R. Herndon, Judge.

For KELLY SONNENBERG, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Casey Sonnenberg, Plaintiffs - Appellants (15-1885): Christopher Cueto, Attorney, Law Office of Christopher Cueto, Ltd., Belleville, IL.

For Amaya Group Holdings (Iom) Limited, Rational Entertainment Enterprises, Ltd, Defendants - Appellees (15-1885): Alain Jeffrey Ifrah, Attorney, Rachel Hirsch, Attorney, Ifrah Pllc, Washington, DC; William J. Niehoff, Attorney, Laura Schrick, Attorney, Mathis Marifian & Richter Ltd, Belleville, IL.

For JUDY FAHRNER, individually, and on behalf of the class she represents, DANIEL FAHRNER, individually, and on behalf of the class he represents, Plaintiffs - Appellants (15-1887): Christopher Cueto, Attorney, Law Office of Christopher Cueto, Ltd., Belleville, IL.

For Tiltware, LLC, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harmon-Traniello, Erik Seidel, Defendants - Appellees (15-1887): Michael B. de Leeuw, Attorney Cozen O'Connor New York, NY.

For Rational FT Enterprises Limited, Defendant - Appellee (15-1887): William J. Niehoff, Attorney, Laura Schrick, Attorney, Mathis Marifian & Richter Ltd Belleville, IL; Rachel Hirsch, Attorney, Alain Jeffrey Ifrah, Attorney, Ifrah Pllc, Washington, DC.

Before BAUER, POSNER, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Posner, Circuit Judge.

The four plaintiffs have filed between them two diversity suits, governed by the substantive law of Illinois, against a variety of persons and companies that host Internet gambling websites. They contend that the defendants owe them the

Page 510

money that two of the plaintiffs (Casey Sonnenberg and Daniel Fahrner) lost in gambling on the defendants' websites. The district court granted the defendants' motions to dismiss, precipitating these two appeals. Although both suits are in federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2), the district judge had not yet decided whether to certify the classes when he dismissed the complaints, and no class-action issue is presented by the appeals.

An Illinois statute imposes criminal penalties on anyone who " knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an Internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or other thing of value by means of the Internet or to make a wager upon the result of any [such] game." 720 ILCS 5/28-1(a)(12). It also punishes " any person who knowingly permits any premises or property owned or occupied by him or under his control to be used as a gambling place." § 5/28-3. Another section, called the Illinois Loss Recovery Act, provides that " any person who by gambling shall lose to any other person, any sum of money or thing of value, amounting to the sum of $50 or more and shall pay or deliver the same or any part thereof, may sue for and recover the money or other thing of value, so lost and paid or delivered, in a civil action against the winner thereof." § 5/28-8(a). The statute dates from an era of strong opposition in Illinois to gambling. See, e.g., Zellers v. White, 208 Ill. 518, 70 N.E. 669, 672 (Ill. 1904). That era has ended, and the laws are gradually being relaxed. See, e.g., 720 ILCS 5/28-1(b) (listing exceptions to the prohibition on gambling); Illinois Riverboat Gambling Act, 230 ILCS 10/1 et seq. ; Illinois Video Gaming Act, 230 ILCS 40/1 et seq. ; cf. GAMBLEONLINE.CO, " Illinois Online Gambling," www.gambleonline.co/usa/illinois/ (visited January 15, 2016).

Casey Sonnenberg and Daniel Fahrner claim that each lost $50 or more at Internet gambling sites operated by one or more of the defendants. But if a person entitled by § 5/28-8(a) to sue the winner has not done so within six months of losing, then by virtue of another section of the Loss Recovery Act " any person may initiate a civil action against the winner" to recover " triple the amount" of the gambler's loss. ยง 5/28-8(b) (emphasis added). Though neither Kelly Sonnenberg nor Judy Fahrner, the other two plaintiffs (who happen to be the mothers of Casey and Daniel), lost money--indeed neither gambled at any of the defendants' sites--they seek to recover triple their sons' losses under the " any person [may sue the winner]" provision. The sons cannot sue because they admit in their complaints that they failed to sue within six months of the losses that they sustained in gambling on the defendants' websites. They claim to have maintained accounts on the websites until 2011, the year the federal government shut down the sites (in April). But ...


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