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GAMBLING DEBTS ARE BECOMING ENFORCEABLE IN FLORIDA COURTS

    MIAMI, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida's historic reputation as a haven for gambling debtors may be coming to an end, if recent court decisions in county and circuit courts in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties are any indication.  Five cases in less than a year have been decided in favor of the creditor, with judgments ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $60,000.
    Florida law traditionally has been interpreted as preventing the legal collection of gambling debts.  However, creditors' attorneys from the downtown Miami law firm of Blackwell & Walker have been winning judgments on behalf of Carnival Leisure Industries, Ltd.  All five cases involve debts incurred by Florida residents at Carnival's Crystal Palace Resort and Casino in the Bahamas.
    "To allow Florida residents to skirt their legitimate obligations effectively flaunts the state's long established policy of enforcing contracts, and it appears the judiciary is coming to this realization," said attorney Patrick C. Barthet.
    Barthet heads Blackwell & Walker's commercial litigation practice, including its creditors' rights division.
    Two of the cases, including the largest one, are on appeal.  "We are hoping to get to the Florida Supreme Court," said Barthet.  "It's time that Florida recognized that the 1951 law that has protected gaming debtors was meant to apply to illegal gambling, which was the only kind that Florida had at the time.  It specifically excludes debts that were incurred in 'any gambling transaction expressly authorized by law.' "
    In January 1993, a Dade Circuit Court ordered Phil C. Froug to pay Carnival more than $60,000 for losses at the Crystal Palace.  Froug's attorneys cited the 1951 law as evidence that the debt, though binding in the Bahamas, is not collectible in Florida.
    "In the past, citing the statute was considered a slam dunk for the debtor," Barthet said.  "Not any more.  The courts are recognizing that with the lottery and other developments, the social climate has changed. They are beginning to focus on the state's legitimate interest in enforcing legal contract obligations."
    Froug's brief is due in the Third District Court of Appeal in March.
     One of the Palm Beach County Court cases is under appeal to the Palm Beach Circuit Court.  The other three cases have ended with judgments in Carnival's favor.
    -0-             02/22/93
    CONTACT:  Joanna Wragg of Wragg & Casas Public Relations, 305-372-1234, for Blackwell & Walker; or Patrick C. Barthet of Blackwell & Walker, 305-358-8880 CO:  BLACKWELL & WALKER ST:  FL


-- FL005 -- X391 02/22/93
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Date:Feb 22, 1993
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