The legal drama surrounding last summer’s high-stakes heads-up battle between King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik and poker pro “Aussie” Matt Kirk completed another episode on Tuesday. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, a Las Vegas judge dismissed Tsoukernik’s counterclaims of defamation, fraud and civil conspiracy against Kirk and the Aria Resort & Casino.
The back-and-forth courtroom battle between the Rozvadov casino owner and the high-stakes pro stems from an unpaid $2 million debt incurred by Tsoukernik after he allegedly borrowed millions from Kirk only to lose it all back to him in a late night heads-up poker game on May 27 at the Aria.
It appears that all are in agreement that Tsourkernik has repaid $1 million of the initial $3 million loan. However, with the remainder left unpaid, Kirk took Tsourkernik to court. The judge ruled that while the debt was an “unenforceable gambling debt”, but left the door open for Kirk to continue his legal pursuit on the grounds of “fraudulent inducement” and “unjust enrichment.”
As a counter-measure Tsourkernik sued Kirk, also naming the Aria Resort & Casino. In his claim, he argued that he overserved and was too impaired to play on the night of May 27. Additionally, Tsoukernik says that Kirk didn’t disclose where his money came from, inferring that he was backed.
District Judge Linda Bell apparently found little merit to Tsourkernik’s arguments, tossing out the claims against both Kirk and the Aria.
“What does that matter, if he’s an independent poker player, where he gets his money from?” Bell said. “That’s not something that any person gambling is required to tell any other person gambling. How can that be fraud?”
Lawyers for Tsoukernik argued that both Kirk and the Aria placed an inebriated Tsoukernik in a “vulnerable situation” and that the fraud was conducted in “how the game itself was executed, not the simple request of participating in the game.”
Countering, Kirk’s attorney Richard Schonfeld said, “There’s no factual allegation that Mr. Kirk ordered him a drink or anything of that sort. Simply, Mr. Tsoukernik alleges that he voluntarily consumed alcohol and somehow that’s a fraud that my client committed upon him.”
In addition to tossing the claim, Judge Bell also ordered that Tsoukernik’s team pay the legal fees for Kirk. While the rulings were a definitive loss for Tsoukernik, the judge did state that if Tsoukernik’s lawyers found a new argument, the door would be open for them.
Lawyers for Kirk say that despite the previous ruling of the $2 million is an “unenforceable gambling debt”, they are still proceeding with attempting to obtain payment in full.
The judge also dismissed the charges levied against the Aria, stating that those issues should be addressed by the Gaming Control Board.
In the meantime, Tsoukernik’s King’s Casino will be hosting the World Series of Poker Circuit Spring Festival from March 1-19.