Special to the Democrat by John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Last week, a Greene County jury awarded Tony Samuel of Aliceville, Alabama, half a million dollars, against Frontier Bingo because they refused to pay him the $30,000, he won playing electronic bingo back in 2019.
Samuel was represented by Attorneys Faya Rose Toure a/k/a Rose Sanders and Hank Sanders of the Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders Law Firm in Selma. DREAMS, Inc., a Charity doing business as Frontier Bingo in Knoxville, was represented by Mark Scogin and Victor Hamby of Tuscaloosa. The case was held in the 17th Judicial Circuit presided over by Judge Eddie Hardaway.
Samuel came to the Frontier Bingo Hall on August 1, 2019, with $4400 and was playing 3 or 4 machines for six or seven hours. He pooled his winnings from one machine to the other. He did not win as much as $1000 a single time but he steadily won and loss smaller amounts, ending up with $33,000. He called his girlfriend who urged him to come home with his winnings.
Samuel played awhile longer and lost $3,000 back. He decided to cash out with $30,000 in winnings. He called security to cash out. Security sent Carlos Lewis, the technician at Frontier, to print his winning ticket. Lewis testified at trial that there was no machine malfunction and no jackpot that Samuel was owed the $30,000.
The technician, Carlos Lewis, took Samuel to collect his money. He said the manager said they would pay. He saw them counting out money to pay Samuel. They never told him why they did not pay. The Manager said they would pay him the next day. Samuel asked to take a cell phone photo of his winning ticket but hey would not allow him to photograph his ticket. Samuel refused to leave until he could take a photograph of his winning ticket.
The Frontier management called 911 for the Greene County Sheriff’s Department to remove him from the premises. When Greene County Deputy Melvin Smith arrived at Frontier, Samuels said he was not leaving without a photo or copy of his winning ticket. Deputy Melvin Smith had to insist that Frontier allow Samuel to make a copy of the winning ticket. A copy was finally made, and he escorted Tony Samuel out of the Frontier Bingo Hall. Samuel only had $200 of $4400 dollars left in his pocket.
Samuel returned the next day to Frontier to collect his winnings. This time the Frontier management made him wait for some more hours to collect his winnings. They then made him come back a third time and he brought a witness. Frontier never told him why they would not pay him.
Samuel went back a third time to Frontier Bingo to collect his winnings. This time he was told to call Frontier’s Attorney, Flint Liddon of Birmingham. He called Liddon who said that Samuel would have to collect his money from “the maker of the machine, not Frontier Bingo.” Samuel testified that Liddon has now lost his license to practice law.
At that point, Tony Samuels consulted Attorney Henry Sanders of Chestnut, Sanders & Sanders, a law firm in Selma. Sanders tried to collect Samuel’s winnings without any success. Sanders filed suit on Samuel’s behalf, which resulted in last week’s trial at the William McKinley Branch Courthouse in Eutaw, Alabama.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Samuels, with $250,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages, totaling half a million dollars.
Attorney Hank Sanders said of the significance of this case, “This was a breach of contract case that turned into a fraud case. The bingo operators of Greene County must be fair in their business dealing with customers who come to play at their facilities. The jury awarded Mr. Samuel much more than his $30,000 winning ticket because of the unfair, degrading, and fraudulent way he was treated.”
Sanders indicated that he had tried to subpoena Bernie Gomez of Huntsville, Alabama, the reputed “actual owner of Frontier Bingo” to testify at the trial but could not locate him to serve the subpoena. One witness testified that Gomez comes to Frontier Bingo each Monday to collect his share of the winnings in bags of money.
Efforts to contact Frontier Bingo for their comments on the jury verdict and if they plan to appeal, reached an answering machine that said it was full and could not accept additional messages.