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A student deals cards on a blackjack table during a training session conducted by Anne Arundel Community College in partnership with Maryland Live. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Maryland Live makes its case against ‘dealer school’ suit

Attendees of Maryland Live’s “dealer school” were not employees during a 12-week training program in part because the casino did not gain any immediate benefit from their work, lawyers for the casino have argued in an attempt to dismiss a would-be class action lawsuit.

The plaintiffs alleged the purpose of the school was to hire the exact number of dealers that would be needed at Maryland Live and are seeking unpaid wages under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

But the casino counters the plaintiffs, in attempting to show they are employees, “have placed all of their chips on an invalid legal theory.” Maryland Live could not have been the “primary beneficiary” of the plaintiffs’ labor because the casino was not open during the training and the benefit for an employer cannot be prospective, according to the motion to dismiss. The dealer school opened in January 2013 and closed before table games debuted three months later at Maryland Live.

“It is beyond implausible for Plaintiffs to show that Defendant received any benefit – much less the ‘primary benefit’ – from their enrollment in dealer’s school when throughout the duration of the school Plaintiffs never dealt a single hand to a single casino patron who wagered a single dollar,” states the motion to dismiss, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have until Tuesday to respond to the motion to dismiss. Steven M. Lubar, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said Wednesday the lawsuit “contains specific facts and allegations” and therefore cannot be dismissed for failing to state a claim. Lubar is with The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl in Baltimore.

Todd J. Horn, a partner with Venable LLP in Baltimore and Maryland Live’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Maryland Live has previously denied all allegations made in the lawsuit.

The casino’s motion to dismiss notes the plaintiffs did not allege the instructions they received were specific to table games at Maryland Live. Dealer school attendees learned rules governing table games for at all casinos in Maryland, and the rules are strictly regulated by state law, the motion states.

“Plaintiffs do not (and cannot) assert that they would be unable to use the gaming licenses acquired during dealer’s school at other casinos throughout the state because, in Maryland, gaming employee licenses are fully transferable,” the motion states.

The dealer school was set up in conjunction with Anne Arundel Community College, which continues to offer casino-dealer training that prepares students for “immediate employment” at any of the state’s casinos. The college is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Trainees were only paid for the final two days of training, receiving the minimum hourly wage for attendance, according to the lawsuit.

The casino’s motion to dismiss cites several federal court decisions limiting the definition of “employee” and ruling that trainees in certain circumstances are not employees while in training. The motion cites 1947 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held railroad brakemen trainees were not entitled to wages for their training program in part because the trainees’ work did displace any regular brakemen.

“The trainees were, in effect, students: they benefited from ‘instruction’ provided by the railroad, and the railroad itself received ‘no “immediate advantage” from any work done by the trainees,’” the motion states.

The case is Harbourt, et al., v. PPE Casino Resorts Maryland LLC, USDMD No. 1:14-cv-03211-CCB.