COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A lawyer says a state Court of Appeals ruling clears the way for gamblers to sue for money they lose by playing illegal gambling machines.

The court ruled Lauren Proctor could go forward with her lawsuit against two Columbia restaurants where she lost nearly $700,000 from 1999 to 2005. The judges say state law allows people to get back money they gambled away to discourage businesses from keeping illegal machines.

Proctor’s lawyer Pete Strom says he expects a number of lawsuits to follow the ruling. An attorney for the restaurants says they are considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Proctor stole nearly $700,000 to pay her gambling debts. If she wins her lawsuit against the restaurants, Strom says the money would go to paying back what she stole.