Emory Law Journal


Anna Lu


Compulsive gamblers and their family members have had a long, unsuccessful history of lawsuits against the gambling industry in the United States. With the emergence of online gambling and sports betting, the gambling industry is becoming less and less regulated, preying on compulsive gamblers and nurturing their addiction for profit. Although gambling is diagnosed as a legitimate addiction disorder in medicine, the law has been slow and even reluctant to recognize and grant legal protection to addicted gambler plaintiffs. However, the recent wave of litigation brought against a similar addiction-for-profit industry, the opioid industry, seems to suggest there is an alternative solution for compulsive gambler plaintiffs to seek relief for the gambling industry’s fraudulent and deceptive practices.

This Comment argues that compulsive gamblers should allege that the gambling industry used the United States mail system to defraud them in violation of the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). First, this Comment highlights the deceptive practices of the gambling industry and explains why it has continued to profit without any legal accountability thus far. Through the mutually beneficial relationship between the state governments and the casinos, state governments can receive a cut of revenue generated each year and even hold proprietary interests in the casino machines’ software. In return, casinos are able to run their businesses with minimal regulations and legal immunity from self-exclusion programs.

Next, this Comment breaks new ground by arguing that compulsive gamblers can leverage recent RICO litigation against opioid pharmaceutical companies in their own RICO claims. Compulsive gamblers bringing civil RICO claims against gambling companies can make comparisons between the opioid industry’s fraudulent industry-wide tactics and the gambling industry’s practices.

Finally, this Comment highlights the new boom of sports betting after its legalization in 2018. Following the establishment of a new gambling industry, the timing is perfect for compulsive gambler plaintiffs to pursue legal accountability in the courts. Furthermore, the hidden tool of internal discovery documents released to the public will aid compulsive gamblers in fighting for legal recourse and government regulatory action to stop the manipulations of the gambling industry.

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