RWS wrong to have detained patron: Court

Casino has not proven it has any legal basis to hold man, who is awarded $45k in damages

The High Court found a casino was wrong to have detained a patron for 46 minutes as he had done nothing wrong, and awarded him $45,000 for wrongful imprisonment, pain and suffering and medical expenses.

Justice Choo Han Teck, in finding Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) liable for detaining Mr Goel Adesh Kumar following an altercation, made clear the scope of a casino's powers of detention under the Casino Control Act in the first such reported case.

"The casino has not proven that it has any lawful basis to detain (him). Although casino operators in Singapore are required... to take 'all appropriate steps' to ensure that patrons are not 'drunk, disorderly or riotous', this section (of the Act) does not confer a legal basis or power on the casino to detain its patrons," said Justice Choo in judgment grounds released yesterday.

He added that while the casino may detain a person suspected of committing or trying to commit a prescribed offence until police arrived, this was not the case with Mr Goel. The 43-year-old had not committed any offence, was not told why he was detained, and the casino staff did not immediately alert the police, said Justice Choo.

Mr Goel, a permanent resident here, had been gambling at RWS for about 12 hours when a dispute broke out between him and a couple over a $50 chip in April 2012.

After casino staff separated them, Mr Goel was led to a side room to cool down. He tried to leave several times but was blocked or restrained by employees and auxiliary police officers (APOs) deployed to guard the casino. He eventually called the police and left after they arrived. He was later found to have fractured his shoulder, which he said resulted from being manhandled.

Through lawyer Abraham Vergis, he sued RWS for false imprisonment and the consequences that followed. He also sought aggravated and exemplary damages as well as loss of earnings that amounted to over $400,000 in total. RWS, defended by Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, denied the claims and brought in Sats Security Services as the third party in the suit, seeking to be compensated by the latter should it lose the case. The APOs involved were from Sats, whose lawyer Paul Seah denied Mr Goel's claims of false imprisonment as well as assault and battery through the use of excessive and violent force.

Based on the CCTV footage and after hearing the evidence, the judge found there was poor judgment on the part of the casino staff. He said casino officers and APOs should have known they did not have the lawful power to detain Mr Goel.

He ruled RWS liable to pay 80 per cent of the damages for false imprisonment, assault and battery, with the remaining 20 per cent apportioned to Sats. But Sats escaped any payment as Mr Goel did not sue it, although the judge noted the option was open to him to do so later.

Justice Choo dismissed his claims but awarded him $45,915 in damages, which included $4,000 for false imprisonment, $25,000 for pain and suffering, and about $16,000 for pre-trial medical expenses. The casino was liable for $36,732.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2015, with the headline 'RWS wrong to have detained patron: Court'. Print Edition | Subscribe