Deadbeat Gamblers Stiff Casinos

Even the rich are finagling their casino debts.

ByABC News
March 21, 2011, 1:36 PM

March 22, 2011 -- Gambler Jerome Powers is attempting what sounds like an ethnic impossibility: welshing on an Indian debt.

One night about two years ago, Powers lost $1.2 million playing blackjack at Mohegan Sun, a Connecticut casino owned by the Pequot Indians. The money he lost was in the form of a marker — a credit extended by the casino, according to court papers.

Though Powers wrote a series of checks that same night to cover the amount, none were honored by his bank. He later stopped payment on them, the documents state.

The Mohegans, understandably, were peeved. Though they have used Connecticut's courts to try to get their money back, Powers has resisted their efforts, advancing a variety of arguments in legal papers as to why he shouldn't have to repay.

First, he said he'd welshed on principle, claiming in court papers that the marker given him amounted to an illegal contract, since the State of Connecticut forbids both the extension of credit for gambling and gambling itself. He further argued that the State of Connecticut had no legal authority in the case, since the Pequots' reservation, like other Indian reservations, enjoys the status of a sovereign nation.

A judge in New London rejected these views and in January ruled that the Pequots could attach Powers' assets to the tune of $1.2 million. Powers has appealed the ruling.

At no time has he asserted that he can't pay. In fact, he seems, by every outward appearance, to be swimming in dough.

He is chief executive officer and co-chairman of Plum TV, a media company launched in 2002 that, according to its website, "is the first and only 24-hour lifestyle network" exclusively to cover rich people and their doings, in such locales as Aspen, the Hamptons, Martha's Vineyard, Miami and Sun Valley.

According to a November story in the Miami Herald, Powers in late 2007 sold a magazine he had founded. Purchase price: $33 million. Earlier that same year he told the New York Post he had entered into a multi-year $20 million magazine deal with Donald Trump.

Whatever the reason for Powers' refusal to pay the Pequots, he is only one of a growing number of gamblers resorting to inventive legal means to repudiate their debts.