BALTIMORE — Casino hostess Helena Wong isn't having much luck.
On Friday, a federal judge slapped the VIP hostess at the brand new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore with a preliminary injunction barring her from contacting a list of clients she collected at her last job, at the Maryland Live Casino in Hanover.
The ruling comes after Maryland Live, located just 12 miles away from Horseshoe, accused Wong in a lawsuit of stealing a proprietary list of more than 1,000 dice-tossing, lever-pulling, big-spending high-rollers — an elite group of gamblers whose business is worth "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to a Maryland Live Senior Vice President of Marketing Mario Maesano, who testified in court Friday.
The casino sued Wong last week after a Maryland Live client, identified in court papers only as Customer A, forwarded a pair of emails he received from Wong on Aug. 20 and 21. The first invited him to tour Horseshoe, and offered "a night or two" of play. The second asked the roughly 20 recipients of the email "PLEASE DO NOT repeat or show this email to any of MD Live's personnel. This is a confidential email between us."
Maryland Live filed a suit against Wong on Aug. 22 accusing her of misappropriating "sensitive, confidential and proprietary information" in the form of "a list containing the names and contact information of Maryland Live's most valuable customers." The suit underscores an atmosphere of fierce competition in Maryland, which is poised to become a gambling hotspot. Maryland is now host to five full-service casinos, and is expecting a sixth in 2016.
As a VIP hostess at Maryland Live, Wong's job was to keep those customers happy. But Customer A, who testified in court Friday and introduced himself as Philip DePalo, was disturbed to receive Wong's email advertising services at Horseshoe.
"I'm in the business world and it's just unprofessional," DePalo said. "You go out and do your own research, you don't take it from someone."
That didn't stop him from taking Wong up on her offer to attend Horseshoe's soft launch.
"I'm not an idiot," DePalo said.
But Wong, who took the stand, maintained she did nothing wrong. Wong said she declined to sign a non-compete contract presented to her months into her employment, prompting her to resign from Maryland Live. The 20 people she emailed, Wong said, were clients she met personally, and did not come from the client list database. Though Wong did have access to the list, she was not permitted to print it out.
Wong said she did keep a notebook full of names and phone numbers — a practice, she said, that is commonplace in the gambling business. Wong added that when she started her job at Maryland Live, she contacted clients she met at her previous job at Revel Casino in Atlantic City.
"I'm absolutely not a thief," Wong said. "I stole nothing."
Still, U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis sided with the casino, and barred Wong from further contact with the 20 customers she'd reached out to until the case is resolved.
"It seems to me your client has gathered through her work at Maryland Live confidential information that she shouldn't use until we sort (the case) out," Garbis told Wong's attorney, Robert Shaffer. Garvis added, however, that if those clients contact Wong, she is free to respond.