Sponsor Invokes Website Rules To Disavow Obligation To Pay Hole-In-One Contest Obligation

By: Rob Harris

During a business trip to Las Vegas, John Aretakis was playing golf with three acquaintances at Rio Secco Golf Club.

Here’s what happened next, according to a judicial complaint recently cited by a federal judge:

“At the seventh hole, ‘a young woman working for Rio Secco’ informed the group that for a $20 fee, a golfer could enter the ‘million-dollar hole-in-one challenge,’ in which a golfer who hits a ball from the tee to the cup in one swing ‘would get . . . a million-dollar prize.’…. Plaintiff also noticed an eight- to ten-foot sign near the seventh hole reading, ‘Welcome to the Rio Secco [M]illion-[D]ollar [H]ole.'”. Thereafter, ‘Plaintiff paid the $20 entry fee for all [four] golfers.'”

Mr. Aretakis forked over $80, to cover the costs for himself and his three companions.

And…. we all know what happened next. Ace, by one of the three, Adam Neary.

Before teeing off, Mr. Neary promised Mr. Aretakis that, should he knock it in the hole, Mr. Aretakis would share 50% of the winnings.

Immediately after the ball went into the hole, the woman tending the promotion delivered the actual news. No $1 million was payable. Instead, the hole-in-one entitled Mr. Neary to return, on an expenses paid trip, at which time he would participate in another contest, for which, if he managed another ace, he would receive the $1 million.

Again, as summarized by the court:

“The foursome’s celebration was short-lived; the Rio Secco employee told Plaintiff that he and Neary ‘do not get the million dollars, you only win an all-expense paid trip back to Las Vegas to compete in a competition at Rio Secco to try to win the $1 million.’… A few holes later, another Rio Secco employee working at a drink cart referred to the contest as ‘kind of a bait and switch,’ because it leads golfers ‘to think that a hole-in-one gets [the golfer] the million dollars’. After the foursome completed the golf round, Neary was presented with a four-to-five-foot $1 million novelty check. The check bore apparent endorsements from ‘Millionaire Maker,’ ‘Butch Harmon,’ ‘Petron Tequila,’ and ‘Nike Golf.'”

Apparently, there were rules to the contest posted on a website. Let’s ignore for the second the obvious issue of how one was to review a website while standing on the 7th tee at Rio Secco Golf Course. The website rules provided that:

“‘[p]articipation in [the] Rio Secco $1,000,000 Hole Main Event [is] secured through: a) witnessed hole-in-one at Rio Secco on hole #7 (witness must be designated Rio Secco team employee, specifically assigned to witness hole #7 during predetermined schedule)'”; or “‘b) random drawing conducted monthly during promotion period by Rio Secco management.'”  A separate provision, entitled ‘Rio Secco $1,000,000 Hole Prizes,’ reads as follows:

• Each verified winner of the monthly drawing, and any person with qualified hole-in-one during the promotion period will receive the following prizes: three (3) night stay (room and tax only) at a casino resort affiliate of Rio Secco to be determined by Rio Secco, two rounds of (18) holes of golf at Rio Secco and/or Cascata, tee gift, round trip ground transportation from McCarran International Airport to the casino resort, from the casino resort to the golf courses, and from the casino resort to the event site.
• Rio Secco $1,000,000 Main Event will be comprised of each player hitting (3) single golf shots with USGA approved equipment from a distance of 175 yards on hole #7 at Rio Secco, at a time determined by Rio Secco event management, with a $1,000,000 prize awarded for each hole-in-one on said shots.
• Each $1,000,000 prize awarded in 20-year annuity — $50,000 each year for 20 years.yards on hole #7 at Rio Secco, at a time determined by Rio Secco event management, with a $1,000,000 prize awarded for each hole-in-one on said shots.

Mr. Neary, wanting nothing more to do with this promotion, purported to assign his rights to Mr. Aretakis, who filed suit, alleging a host of claims, including breach of contract, fraud and negligence.

Alas, the court recently dismissed Mr. Aretakis’ claims. Notably, the court did not address the substantive merits of the claims. Instead, the court focused on Mr. Aretakis’ attempt to stand in the shoes of Mr. Neary.

According to the court, Mr. Neary’s attempt to assign his claims to Mr. Aretakis failed as a matter of law, and thus the case should be dismissed.

Remaining unanswered, therefore, is whether Mr. Neary would be able to pursue the claims himself.


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