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Pennsylvania high court rules mandatory $75,000 casino theft fine unconstitutional

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional a mandatory $75,000 fine imposed on a Pittsburgh casino poker dealer convicted of having stolen $200 worth of chips.

The unanimous ruling Tuesday by the state's highest court called the fine "strikingly disproportionate" and said the fact that it was mandatory "merely exacerbates the disproportion."

Twenty-nine-year-old Matthew Eisenberg was charged with sneaking $1 or $5 poker chips off the table at The Rivers Casino. Attorney Michael Santicola argued that his client would have faced a much smaller fine if convicted of stealing from anyone other than a casino — and it wouldn't be mandatory.

The state said the fine was intended to deter behavior that would undermine confidence in the gambling industry. Representatives of the casino and the district attorney's office declined comment.

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