Appeals court rules admitted gambler can sue Columbia restaurant - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Appeals court rules admitted gambler can sue Columbia restaurants for losses

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Restaurant where woman claims to have lost money while gambling Restaurant where woman claims to have lost money while gambling

A South Carolina Appeals Court ruling leaves the door open for an admitted gambler to sue two Columbia restaurants for money she lost while gambling at the establishments for several years.

Lauren Proctor's attorney said a state law on the books since the 1700s allows people who illegally gamble to sue and get their money back. 

The law was intended to it prevent illegal gambling. Though this isn't the first lawsuit of it's kind in the state, it's most likely the first time a lawsuit like this will see the inside of a courtroom.

"There's never really been a great remedy for the loser, someone who's taken advantage by these people, to get their money back," said attorney Pete Strom Jr.

But Strom said that's different now. He says an opinion recently issued by the state Court of Appeals now allows people who illegally gambled in the state to sue and get their money back.

Proctor claims she lost $700,000 gambling at illegal video poker machines inside two Columbia restaurants.

Proctor claims to have lost between $1,000 to $5,000 a week, gambling on the illegal machines. The money she put into the slots, she was convicted of stealing through a mail fraud scheme.

Now, should she win this lawsuit, Strom said, the majority of the money would go to pay a court-ordered restitution of around $690,000.

"Gambling is illegal," said Strom. "And if you put your money in there, you are now entitled to put your hand back in there and get it back out."

Strom said the opinion issued by the court is a big step in stopping illegal gambling in the state. He feels making those who operate the gambling machines pay up will make more of the operations close up.

"If you own a bar, a restaurant, a convenience store, and you have those machines in there, they're all computers," he said. "We've got the experts that can go through and figure out the records just like we can on any other computer, what the transactions are. If somebody comes to us, and they've lost a substantial amount of money, we're going to bring the lawsuit and we're going to get the money back."

Strom said most of the cases he's heard about were for just a couple thousand dollars, so they settled out of court. Since this one is for $700,000, he says it most likely will go to court.

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