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Pikaluk v. Horseshoe Entertainment LP

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 13, 2019





         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 54) filed by Defendants, Horseshoe Entertainment, LP (“Horseshoe”), Steven Jones, Rob Brown, Jason Williams, Federico M. Arends, III, and James LaFleur (hereinafter referred to as the “Horseshoe Defendants”). The Horseshoe Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that they are not state actors as required by Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983. See id. Alternatively, they argue Plaintiff Kyle D. Pikaluk (“Pikaluk”) is unable to establish the essential elements of his Section 1983 claims. See id. The Horseshoe Defendants also seek summary judgment as to Pikaluk's Louisiana state law claims. See id. Pikaluk opposed the Motion for Summary Judgment. See Record Documents 58 & 63. For the reasons which follow, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and all of Pikaluk's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         On March 17-18, 2017, Pikaluk was a patron at the Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. The Horseshoe Hotel & Casino is a licensed gaming establishment and is an affiliate of Caesars Entertainment Corporation. Defendants Steven Jones, Rob Brown, Jason Williams, Federico M. Arends, III, and James LaFleur were, at all times relevant herein, employed by Horseshoe.[2]

         Pikaluk is an “advantage player, ” meaning he utilizes techniques and strategies in order to gain an advantage or “edge” over the casino, thereby increasing his chance of winning. He classifies this case as “casino patron abuse, ” maintaining that Horseshoe wanted to punish him for winning more than $30, 000 playing blackjack at their casino during the late night hours of March 17, 2017 and the early morning hours of March 18, 2017. Record Document 63 at 6; Record Document 58-1 at ¶ 9. Pikaluk now seeks monetary damages from the Horseshoe Defendants as a result of events that occurred on the premises of the Horseshoe Hotel & Casino on March 18, 2017, the date he attempted to cash in his chips. See Record Document 54-1 at ¶ 5; Record Document 58-1 at ¶ 1; Record Document 63 at 6-7. He asserts Section 1983 claims; state law tort claims of false arrest/conspiracy for false arrest, false imprisonment/conspiracy for false imprisonment, battery/conspiracy to commit battery, malicious prosecution/conspiracy for malicious prosecution, negligence and gross negligence, and conversion; and violation of the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (“LUTPA”). See Record Document 31.

         The Horseshoe Defendants contend that prior to March 18, 2017, Pikaluk had been banned from numerous casinos, including several Caesars Entertainment affiliated properties. See Record Document 54-1 at ¶ 7, citing Record Document 54-5 (Pikaluk Deposition) at 36-45 & Record Document 54-13 (Interrogatory Response) at 10-11. Pikaluk contests this fact and asserts that the Horseshoe Defendants have mischaracterized his deposition testimony and interrogatory responses. See Record Document 58-1 at ¶ 2. Instead, he maintains that he was “backed off” or “asked to leave” the casino properties, as compared to being banned and told not to return. Id. Pikaluk recalls only two casinos that imposed a ban against him - one in Canada and one in Mesquite, Nevada. See Id. He maintains that he was never banned from returning to a Caesars affiliated property. See id.

         While a patron at Horseshoe on March 17-18, 2017, Pikaluk used his “advantage player” techniques and seemingly did not want his identity known to the casino. The Horseshoe Defendants eventually identified him. According to several of the Horseshoe Defendants, after referencing Pikaluk's identity in the electronic casino management system, Horseshoe supervisory level employees determined that, as of June 2016, Pikaluk was a companywide ban, meaning he was permanently banned from all Caesars Entertainment affiliated properties. Record Document 54-1 at ¶ 9, citing Record Document 54-11 (James LaFleur Deposition) at 88 -91; Record Document 54-10 (Rob Brown Deposition) at 62-63; Record Document 54-9 (Steven Jones Deposition) at 70-71. The WinNet message, which Pikaluk produced, states:


         Record Document 63-2 (WinNet Message) at 17. Pikaluk contests the meaning of the message in the electronic casino management system, alleging:

Defendants only saw messages in the WinNet system that Plaintiff was a “companywide ban”. They did not (and could not) “determine” from the WinNet messages that Plaintiff had actually been banned from Caesars propertie [sic] or that Caesars had actually sent Plaintiff notice that he was banned. . . . Defendants . . . did not contact anyone at Caesars to obtain verification or confirmation of the WinNet messages or whether Plaintiff had been notified of any companywide ban and had received such notice.

         Record Document 58-1 at ¶ 3.

         On March 18, 2017, after learning of the companywide ban in the electronic casino management system and knowing that Pikaluk was on the premises (specifically, at the cashier's cage attempting to cash in a portion of his chips), the Horseshoe Defendants notified the Bossier City Police Department. Horseshoe refused to cash in Pikaluk's chips and returned the chips and his Canadian passport to him. He was escorted from the cage area and onto the entry ramp where he encountered Bossier City Police Officers. See Record Document 58-1 at ¶ 8(1). No. Horseshoe employee physically laid hands on Pikaluk.

         Sergeant Joseph C. Thomerson (“Sergeant Thomerson”), Officer Jordan D. Johnson (“Officer Jordan”), and Reserve Officer Donald Razinsky were dispatched to the scene by the Bossier City Police Department. There is no dispute that Pikaluk was ultimately arrested for criminal trespassing. See Record Document 54-15. Sergeant Thomerson was the senior officer and made the decision to arrest Pikaluk. See Record Document 54-6 (Sergeant Thomerson Deposition) at 28-29, 34; Record Document 54-7 (Officer Johnson Deposition) at 41. Sergeant Thomerson stated that his decision was “based on the statements from the Horseshoe guys that were there, the security, and then seeing Mr. Pilaluk on the property.” Record Document 54-6 at 8. He admitted that his decision was made prior to talking to Pikaluk, but only after seeing him on casino property. See Id. Sergeant Thomerson and Officer Johnson believed the elements of criminal trespassing were satisfied and that probable cause to arrest existed. See Record Document 54-6 at 25-29, 100-101; Record Document 54-7 at 91-93. Officer Johnson further stated that Pikaluk was arrested, as compared to issuing him a summons, because he was not from the immediate Shreveport-Bossier area. See Record Document 54-7 at 92-93. On July 11, 2017, the criminal trespass charge against Pikaluk was nolle prossed by the Bossier City Attorney. See Record Document 54-15 at 8.

         During his deposition, Sergeant Thomerson was questioned extensively about his decision to arrest Pikaluk. He stated that Steven Jones, the Horseshoe Security Supervisor, made the initial complaint regarding Pikaluk. See Record Document 54-6 (Sergeant Thomerson Deposition) at 79. Sergeant Thomerson further testified:

Q. Why were you only dealing with [Steven] Jones.
A. That's what - who was making the complaint.
Q. The complaint?
A. The call that came in.
. . .
A. He was - my understanding, he was a supervisor. He was the supervisor at the time.
. . .
Q. . . . And when you investigate and respond to a trespassing call, what steps do you take to confirm that the suspect has, in fact, been banned, to use your term.
A. How reliable is the person making that complaint to me.
Q. And in this instance, Mr. [Steven] Jones.
A. Yes.
Q. No, . . . did Mr. [Steven] Jones ever tell you that the Horseshoe itself had banned Mr. Piklauk?
A. He said he's been banned from Horseshoe and all their properties.
. . .
A. He told me that Mr. Pikaluk had been banned, had been notified that he is banned from the property.
. . .
A. That he has been banned, that Mr. Pikaluk knew he had been banned, that he had certified letters that ...

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