Can An Owner of a Saloon Be Considered the Winner of a Poker Game Played by His Agents ?

In Zellers v. White, 208 Ill. 518, 70 N.E. 669 (1904), the defendant owned a saloon and operated two gaming rooms on the second floor of the building housing his saloon. Zellers, 208 Ill. at 519, 70 N.E. at 669. The plaintiff lost $ 80 playing poker there. He played many hands of poker against several men, including two (Downey and Kaiser) who were employees of the defendant. Zellers, 208 Ill. at 519-20, 70 N.E. at 670. Unlike the other poker players, Downey and Kaiser did not have to pay for the chips they used to bet on the game. At the end of the night, their chips belonged to the defendant; Downey and Kaiser did not redeem the chips they had won for cash. Zellers, 208 Ill. at 520, 70 N.E. at 670. The defendant argued that he was not a winner from whom the plaintiff could recover his gambling losses because he did not personally play in the poker game. Zellers, 208 Ill. at 524, 70 N.E. at 671. In rejecting this contention, the supreme court pointed out that Downey and Kaiser played poker as the defendant's agents. The court therefore held that he was responsible for their actions. Zellers, 208 Ill. at 524, 70 N.E. at 671. The court simply applied basic agency principles in finding that the defendant was the winner of the poker game. It did not have to consider whether a "third-party facilitator" could be considered a winner under the statute.