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Four months after a Connecticut casino launched a suit to reclaim $1 million in gambling debts from Eugene Melnyk, it seems the Ottawa Senators owner is digging in for a lengthy battle.
This much can be gleaned from recent filings in the superior court of New London, Connecticut, the venue for this rather unusual litigation.
Melnyk late last month denied the vast majority of 55 assertions made by Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority — which operates the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. The casino responded Tuesday with some caustic observations of its own.
The items in dispute include some very basic sets of fact.
For instance, the casino described Melnyk in a September filing as “approximately five feet ten inches tall, weighing “approximately 190 pounds.” Late last month Melnyk took issue with these descriptions and formally “denied” them “except to admit that (he) was five feet nine inches tall and weighed approximately 185 pounds.”
In its latest filing earlier this week, the casino noted the differences cited in height and weight weren’t material and were in any case “covered by the word approximately.”
Where did the casino get the idea Melnyk was five feet ten inches tall and 190 pounds? That was the description on a 2004 casino credit application for $1 million made out on behalf of Melnyk. (All figures U.S.).
Yes, this is where we are in a litigation involving events that allegedly took place two years ago at the Mohegan Sun, which annually generates $1 billion in gambling and entertainment revenues.
The casino’s central allegation is that Melnyk failed to make good some $900,000 in gambling debts. Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority is also seeking $200,000 in foregone interest. In its original complaint from last July, the casino alleged Melnyk issued five separate drafts drawn on his TD Bank account. The litigation includes what purports to be copies.
For reasons that remain unclear, TD declined to honour these drafts, according to the casino. What’s equally puzzling is why this dispute took so long to come to a head. The usual practice for casinos is to arrange daily pickup of all cash, bank drafts and other forms of credit and then deposit them. A dishonoured bank draft, assuming that’s what it was, should have been noticed very quickly.
Given Melnyk’s longstanding relationship with the casino, it’s possible the Mohegan Sun let things go, assuming payment would come eventually.
Melnyk has offered alternative theories. In the first place, he has argued in legal filings, the casino might have failed to present the bank drafts in time, causing them to become stale-dated. Delays such as these might have prompted a cautious TD Bank to not honour the amounts, Melnyk’s lawyers have suggested.
Melnyk has also put forward another potential defence , one that would focus on the role the casino allegedly played in inducing Melnyk to keep gambling until he had lost a small fortune.
In a filing in late October, Melnyk takes issue with an exhibit that contains an image of a $100,000 draft to the casino. It is a TD draft made out to MTGA on March 19, 2017 and appears to carry Melnyk’s signature. In response to the casino’s assertion that this is “a true and correct copy”, Melnyk said he couldn’t be sure until there is “further factual investigation” and that “the information known or readily obtainable by Melnyk is insufficient” to confirm the copy.
“This is a rather silly response,” the casino responded Tuesday in a new filing, “Either (Melnyk) recognizes his own signature or not”.
The casino also betrayed frustration with Melnyk’s challenge of certain financial expressions such as paying a bank draft “in accordance with its terms”. Melnyk claimed the latter expression was “vague, ambiguous, and confusing.” The casino replied the meaning was plain: “If (Melnyk) recognizes his signature and then did not pay the instrument, he must admit this.”
Not only is Melnyk unprepared to do this, he makes a reference in his recent filing to “a lack of discovery” from the casino “at this early stage in the case.”
Perhaps this is a tactic aiming at warning the casino he is prepared to fight this lawsuit as long as it takes, thereby encouraging Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority to drop its action. Or perhaps it is a genuine signal this litigation could go on longer than anyone expected.
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