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Harrop v. The Rhode Island Division of Lotteries

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

December 5, 2019

DANIEL S. HARROP, Plaintiff,
v.
THE RHODE ISLAND DIVISION OF LOTTERIES; by and through Gerry S. Aubin, in his official capacity as Director; THE RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, by and through Marc A. Furcolo, in his official capacity as Acting Director; UTGR, INC. d/b/a TWIN RIVER; TWIN RIVER-TIVERTON, LLC d/b/a TIVERTON CASINO HOTEL; IGT NV, PLC; THE TOWN OF LINCOLN, and THE TOWN OF TIVERTON Defendants.

          For Plaintiff: Joseph S. Larisa, Jr., Esq.; Brandon S. Bell, Esq.

          For Defendant: Robert Corrente, Esq.; Michael W. Field, Esq.; John Tarantino, Esq.; Nicole J. Benjamin, Esq.; Anthony Desisto, Esq.; Justin T. Shay, Esq.; Giovanni D. Cicione, Esq., ; Leah L. Miraldi, Esq.; Gerald J. Petros, Esq.; Mitchel Edwards, Esq.

          DECISION

          STERN, J.

         The Rhode Island Department of Revenue, the State Lottery Division of the State of Rhode Island Department of Revenue (collectively, State Defendants), UTGR, Inc. d/b/a Twin River, and Twin River-Tiverton, LLC d/b/a Tiverton Casino Hotel (collectively, Defendants), joined by IGT NV, PLC, have moved for an order dismissing Daniel S. Harrop's (Plaintiff) Fourth Amended Complaint (Complaint). The Plaintiff has objected and seeks a declaratory judgment that the implementation of sports wagering and online sports wagering without approval from Rhode Island voters violates the Rhode Island Constitution.

         I Facts and Travel

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on May 1, 2019 alleging that the enactment of sports wagering and online/mobile sports wagering violated article 6, section 22 of the Rhode Island Constitution. See generally Third Am. Compl. Counts I, II, and III. On September 8, 2019, this Court issued a bench decision granting the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Standing and entered an Order to that effect on September 16, 2019. However, on September 12, 2019, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Complaint for a fourth time, and the Court granted leave to amend. In the Fourth Amended Complaint, Plaintiff added allegations that he placed a sports wager at Twin River-Tiverton in December 2018 on the New England Patriots and lost the wager. See Compl. ¶¶ 8-10.

         Now, Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint, claiming Plaintiff still lacks standing to challenge the enactment of sports wagering. Plaintiff asserts that he has standing to challenge the enactment of sports wagering because he placed a sports wager that was authorized pursuant to an unconstitutional statute and suffered economic harm thereby.

         II Standard of Review

         In an action brought pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 9-30-1 et seq., the Uniform Declaratory Judgements Act, the Superior Court "lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate claims . . . in the absence of an actual justiciable controversy," which includes "a plaintiff who has standing to pursue the action." Bowen v. Mollis, 945 A.2d 314, 317 (R.I. 2008) (internal citations omitted). As such, "[w]hen confronted with a request for declaratory relief, the first order of business for the trial justice is to determine whether a party has standing to sue." Id.

         When, as here, a plaintiff's standing to pursue the action is challenged,

"the focal point shifts to the claimant, not the claim, and a court must determine if the plaintiff 'whose standing is challenged is a proper party to request an adjudication of a particular issue and not whether the issue itself is justiciable' or, indeed, whether or not it should be litigated." McKenna v. Williams, 874 A.2d 217, 226 (R.I. 2005) (quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99-100 (1968)).

         Plaintiff has the burden to establish standing. See Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce v. Public Utilities Commission, 452 A.2d 931, 934 (R.I. 1982) ("One who seeks review has the burden of setting the judicial machinery in motion by establishing that he is aggrieved and has a right to redress. . . .").

         III Analysis

         "The requirement of justiciability is one of the most basic limitations on the power of this Court to review and issue rulings." Haviland v. Simmons, 45 A.3d 1246, 1256 (R.I. 2012) (quoting State v. Beechum, 933 A.2d 687, 689 (R.I. 2007)). "For a claim to be justiciable, two elemental components must be present: (1) a plaintiff with the requisite standing and (2) 'some legal hypothesis which will entitle the plaintiff to real and articulable relief.'" N & M Properties, LLC v. Town of West Warwick ex rel. Moore, 964 A.2d 1141, 1145 (R.I. 2009) (quoting Bowen, 945 A.2d at 317).

         A Standing

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