A sports bettor in Delaware is continuing a legal fight stemming from a sports bet gone wrong last July.
Lawyers for the gambler argued in a court filing last week that it’s not felony theft under Delaware law to take an overpayment on a winning sports bet. His attorneys argued that he was unlawfully charged, resulting in an erroneous criminal record, which all began from a $20 bet. The gambler, Davell Golding, won a baseball parlay bet last year that had a face value of $354.15. However, the casino paid him out $2,164.65 in error, or $1,810.50 more than he was due for winning the bet.
The casino, Dover Downs, and Golding were not able to resolve the issue amicably.
Golding and a state trooper assigned to gaming matters were in communication with regard to him returning the money, but that process went awry and on July 19, 2018, which was 13 days later, a warrant for his arrest for felony theft was issued. The criminal charges were later dropped when Golding ultimately returned the extra money on Aug. 16, within a 30-day window Dover Downs gave him.
Golding also received a lifetime ban from the property for not quickly returning the money.
Golding filed suit in early March over the incident.
Argument for why it’s not theft
Golding’s attorneys said that the casino’s error on a sports wager doesn’t provide any legal basis from which he can be charged with criminal, felony theft. This implies Dover Downs should have pursued a non-criminal remedy, as the money it handed to him from his winning parlay bet was a “voluntary” action.
From the lawsuit:
According to 11 Del. C. § 841 (a), a person is guilty of theft when the person takes, exercises control over or obtains property of another person intending to deprive that person of it or appropriate it. There are no facts in the record to support the allegation that Mr. Golding violated 11 Del. C. § 841 (a) or that there was probable cause to reasonably believe the same. Rather, Mr. Golding was voluntarily given money that Defendant Dover Downs’ agent determined he was entitled to receive. As such, it is clear Mr. Golding did not commit a wrongful taking, but rather accepted the money Defendant Dover Downs’ determined to be his.
The gambler’s legal team also said that his civil rights were violated when he was allegedly unlawfully detained during his return to Dover Downs after the overpayment incident. Attorneys said that Golding was “threatened” when at Dover Downs. Lawyers alleged that the state trooper knew that Golding’s acceptance of the overpayment did not constitute theft under state law.
They also argued that the state trooper “did not have authority to use his police power to coerce Mr. Golding into returning the money he was given as his winnings, or he would be arrested.” Furthermore, the lawyers said that there aren’t “any standard procedures for identifying and contacting patrons regarding issues with winnings given to them by Dover Downs.”
Rather, Dover Downs “was responsible for contacting [Golding] and seeking a resolution of the matter in accordance with the applicable gaming and lottery rules and regulations,” lawyers said in the filing.
Casinos are not perfect, and mistakes happen, even when it comes to paying out winning wagers. Dover Downs shouldn’t be faulted for overpaying a gambler and seeking to recoup the money.
The issue here is why the situation escalated to this point. It’s a mere $1.8k that resulted in litigation, and poor public relations for the gaming facility. It doesn’t help that the lawsuit involves sports betting, which is becoming more mainstream and has garnered national attention as more states legalize the activity, even states with little to no experience in casino gaming.
Other states looking at sports betting, especially ones relatively new to gaming, should take notice of this lawsuit in Delaware and think of it has a cautionary tale. It’s far better to try to resolve the issue in a way that doesn’t alienate a patron than to pursue the heavier-handed remedy immediately.
Golding’s team does have a persuasive argument that his actions didn’t cross the legal threshold to constitute theft. Either a judge or, should it go trial, a jury, could ultimately make that determination.