Tose's Gambling Suit Goes To Federal Jury The Ex-eagles Owner Is Suing To Recoup His Losses. His Lawyer Portrayed Him As A Hopeless Alcoholic.

Posted: March 04, 1993

CAMDEN — In the end, there were no celebrities, no sports superstars, no business giants.

Instead, just a few close friends sat quietly behind Leonard Tose yesterday as his attorney described the former Eagles owner as a hopeless alcoholic who gambled away millions of dollars and sometimes didn't even remember what he had lost.

Tose was "a drunk," attorney A. Charles Peruto Sr. said in his closing argument before a jury in U.S. District Court in Camden.

"I hate to have that paraded before the public. But now the cat's out of the bag," Peruto said. "The (Sands Hotel Casino) went after Leonard Tose. It was the biggest mistake they ever made."

The always-dapper Tose, dressed in a cream-colored suit, listened intently to three hours of arguments by Peruto and defense attorney Frederick H. Kraus, who represents the Sands. Kraus denied that Tose had been allowed to gamble while drunk.

The attorneys' arguments followed eight days of testimony that drew such notables as former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil and former 76ers star Julius Erving.

The case is being closely watched by the casino industry. Precedent-setting rulings by Judge Joseph Irenas during the trial could open the industry to suits from others who have lost money at the gaming tables while they were drinking, attorneys said yesterday.

Tose sued the Sands and Merv Griffin's Resorts Casino Hotel after the Sands sued Tose to force him to repay $1.2 million in markers owed to the casino since the mid-1980s. Tose is seeking to have his debt canceled and punitive damages. The Resorts trial is expected to begin soon after this trial is concluded.

The Sands has argued that Tose was at least partly responsible for ensuring that he was sober.

In a one-hour charge to the nine-member jury at the start of deliberations yesterday, Irenas reinforced his earlier ruling that the casinos were strictly liable for betting losses of any patron who is "visibly and obviously intoxicated."

"Every casino licensed to do business in the state of New Jersey has a duty to refrain from knowingly permitting a patron to gamble during any period when that patron is obviously and visibly intoxicated," Irenas told the jury.

The charge did not say that Tose was responsible for refraining from drinking while gambling, a position the Sands' attorneys have argued.

"You are instructed that a pit boss and any casino supervisor above the pit boss . . . has the legal right and legal obligation to prevent or stop

from gambling a patron who he or she knows is visibly and obviously intoxicated," Irenas said.

"Regardless of any opinion you may have as to what the law ought to be, it would be a violation of your sworn duty to base any part of your verdict upon any other view or opinion of the law than that given in these instructions," the judge said.

So the issue, attorneys said, is simply this: Was Tose drunk on any of the six days in question in 1985, June 7, June 10, June 19, Aug. 1, Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, and on March 30, 1986? Did he gamble while drunk? Did he lose money, and if so, how much?

The Sands contended that Tose had been sober during his betting sprees.

Tose testified that his losses on those days were about $2.4 million, twice the debt the Sands says he owes, and that he was absolutely drunk on all seven occasions.

In his closing yesterday, Sands attorney Kraus attacked the credibility of witnesses who testified during the trial that Tose was "falling-down drunk." The witnesses, including Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge I. Raymond Kremer, told the jury that they had begged the casino to stop Tose from gambling.

"If Mr. Tose was falling-down drunk, don't you think one of them could have found their way to the Casino Control Commission" to file a complaint? asked Kraus."The Casino Control Commission box was right there," he said.

"These are people who knew what to do if they were having a problem."

Kraus said he didn't believe what he termed "the falling-down drunk story. If they wanted to get him out of there . . . why didn't they walk him out the door?"

Peruto told the jury that no one at the casino, including Tose's friends, would dare to bother Tose when he was in the midst of gambling. "Because a high roller can do what he wants at the casino and forget anybody saying anything about it, " Peruto said.

Tose said yesterday that he may have lost as much as $20 million during his gambling days but added that he had never kept accurate records.

"A gambler like me doesn't want to remember what he lost," Tose said in a

break in the closing arguments. "He just pays the damn thing and moves on."

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