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‘Crazy Eddie’ Nephew’s Case Against BetMGM Faces Key Court Location Question

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2024-01-05

‘Crazy Eddie’ Nephew’s Case Against BetMGM Faces Key Court Location Question

Back in July, it looked as though Sam A. Antar, the scion of one of metropolitan New York’s most notorious white-collar crime families, was close to getting his day in court — or, conversely, having his civil lawsuit accusing BetMGM’s online casino personnel and others of unlawfully preying on his decades-long gambling addiction dismissed. 

But until early December, nothing was heard from U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo of the District Court of New Jersey. And at that time, she openly wondered whether it was her court that should be considering the case in the first place.

“It appears that the Court may lack diversity jurisdiction to adjudicate the situation,” read the judge’s Dec. 7 letter order. “If Plaintiff is a citizen of New Jersey, there is no diversity of citizenship with The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, LLC and BetMGM, LLC (also citizens of New Jersey).”

Let’s back up a bit. Antar’s best-known familial elder is “Crazy Eddie” Antar, whose electronics stores and the zany TV commercials promoting them were ubiquitous in the greater NYC area in the 1970s and ‘80s. After taking his business public, he was eventually convicted and imprisoned for bilking investors out of more than $145 million in an illicit stock market scheme.

His nephew, Sam A. Antar, has also served time for investment schemes, first in 2013 and again in late 2022. He committed those crimes, he said, to fuel a massive gambling addiction that had plunged him into debt.

That addiction was still in full bloom during a period between May 2019 and January 2020 in which Antar claimed in court filings that he gambled at least $29 million — mostly through BetMGM’s iCasino. He further claimed that despite making it clear to BetMGM’s VIP hosts that he had a severe gambling problem, they kept plying him with five-figure bonuses to keep him playing as he complained about malfunctions that interrupted games he was about to win.

Antar initially filed his case in New Jersey Superior Court. It contained 10 counts, including civil conspiracy, breach of contract, and RICO Act violations. But in May, his attorney, Matthew Litt, filed an amended complaint — this time in U.S. District Court — that narrowed the scope of Antar’s allegations to negligence, unjust enrichment, and violating New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, while doing away with the split focus on gameplay glitches.

Defining diversity

Arleo’s December order seems curious in that she seemingly could have raised the jurisdictional question immediately after the case was refiled. Timing aside, Antar responded on Dec. 14 by submitting an affidavit that read: “I was a full-time resident of the State of New York when the Complaint was filed on September 28, 2022, and when the Defendants filed their Notice of Removal on September 29, 2022.

“I subsequently began a prison term at South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, New Jersey (Cumberland County) on December 9, 2022, and remained there until my release on March 28, 2023. I was released under an Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) which requires me to live in New Jersey until March 27, 2025.

“As such, I have lived with my mother in Long Branch, New Jersey (Monmouth County) continuously from my release on 3/28/23 through the present. I intend to remain there until the completion of my ISP on March 27, 2025 or sooner, if reduced. I intend to continue living in New Jersey indefinitely upon completion of my ISP, though not necessarily in the same Long Branch home where I presently reside.”

In a companion filing and in reference to the jurisdiction of Antar’s initial lawsuit, his attorney wrote, “Having filed his Complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Plaintiff respectfully does not herein advocate for the District Court’s jurisdiction.”

In other words, Antar’s camp is perfectly fine with the case being kicked back to New Jersey Superior Court. Not so BetMGM, which, in a Dec. 21 response, took issue with Judge Arleo’s interpretation of “diversity jurisdiction.”

“It is well established that diversity jurisdiction is determined based upon the parties’ citizenship at the time the action is commenced or at the time of removal … and a subsequent change in the citizenship of a party does not destroy jurisdiction,” wrote BetMGM’s attorneys. “Because Plaintiff was a resident of New York when his initial Complaint and the Notice of Removal were filed, diversity jurisdiction exists.”

BetMGM declined to comment when reached by US Bets, and there has been no indication as to when Judge Arleo might rule on the issue at hand.

A resource for the slighted

An unexpected byproduct of the case dragging on is that Antar’s website, betmgmlawsuit.com, has gone from one that received three or four hits a day to one that, starting in late October, began attracting hundreds of visitors on certain days.

The root of this appeared to be widespread complaints on X (nee Twitter) about glitches in certain operators’ online wagering products and Antar’s website showing up toward the top of Google searches for “BetMGM lawsuit” and the like.

US Bets spoke on background with two disgruntled bettors who reached out to Antar, at least one of whom is considering legal action against an operator. Today, when someone visits Antar’s website, there’s an extensive collection of links for how bettors can contact state regulators if they feel they’ve been slighted or mistreated in some way.

Photo: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images




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