US poker pro Rick Salomon was denied a $2.8 million payday he sought to reclaim in a lawsuit filed in a French court against a member of one of Saudi Arabia’s richest families.
Salomon argued that the defendant in the lawsuit, Saudi sheikh Raad al-Khereiji, owed him $2.8 million he won during a private game of poker the two of them as well as several other individuals took part in the French Riviera in 2014.
After a losing streak, Mr. Khereiji told Salomon that his lawyer in Los Angeles would contact the poker pro to arrange the accrued $2.8 million payment. The sheikh’s lawyer reached Salomon seven months later to inform him that no payment would be made as his client believed the game was “a friendly part with no financial stake.”
During a trial that took place in October, Salomon tried to convince judges that Mr. Khereiji owed him $2.8 million. Judges delivered their verdict this past Monday.
The ruling hung on a French law dating back to 1804, under which legal action for a gambling debt or the payment of a gambling debt is granted only if the debt has been accrued from “games involving weapons, foot or horse racing, chariot races, tennis and other games of the sort which involves physical skill and exercise.”
Salomon’s Lawyer Contemplates Appeal
During October’s trial, Mr. Khereiji’s lawyer argued that poker was a game of chance, not of physical skill and movement. Mr. Salomon’s legal team countered that the 2014 private game lasted an “energy-consuming” 48 hours.
Paul-Albert Iweins, the lawyer of the Saudi sheikh, said after the High Court in Grasse dropped its ruling that it came as “no surprise” and that the “only explanation is that [Salomon’s] request was contrary to law.”
Mr. Iweins went on that “there was an infinitely small chance of winning because even supposing there was such a debt, which my client totally contests, you cannot pursue someone in France for a gambling debt, full stop.”
The US poker pro was legally represented by France-based lawyer Ronald Sokol. Mr. Sokol said Monday that they should have met certain conditions in order to have the debt recovered. Those conditions were that the court ruled poker was “a game of skill and involved the exercise of the body.”
Mr. Sokol noted that he had not trouble showing the court that poker was a game of skill, but “these two cumulative conditions were not met.”
Salomon and his legal team are considering taking the matter to France’s Court of Cassation, known to be the country’s highest ranking court, as the French rule on gambling debts has been in effect for more than two centuries and “there has been no case law since in the civil courts.”
Despite losing the lawsuit, Salomon won two smaller victories – first, the court rejected a request that the US poker pro pay Mr. Khereiji’s legal fees; and second, the court had authorized the use of gambling records obtained from Las Vegas casinos that showed the Saudi sheikh was an avid gambler and a frequent visitor of the casino city’s high-stakes poker rooms.
For instance, Mr. Khereiji’s records showed that he lost about $39 million in 29 months in the former Ivey Room (now Table 1) at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
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