By Ross C. Goodman
While everyone likes to have fun playing casino games in Las Vegas, just remember that taking credit from the casino or not following some of the games’ rules could land you in jail. First, it is important to understand that all credit is not equal. Contrary to credit that banks extend, unpaid credit from a casino (referred to as a “Marker”) can result in a felony conviction. That is because not paying a Marker upon presentment to your bank is treated the exact same, under NRS 205.130(1), as not having sufficient funds in your bank account when you write a check. In the case of a dishonored Marker, the Casino has the option to refer the matter to the Bad Check Collections Unit (“BCU”) of the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The BCU will send you a Notice giving you a final chance to work out a payment plan within 10 days before referring the case for prosecution.
Like in any criminal case, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted with the intent to defraud. However, unlike most prosecutions, there is a built-in statutory presumption of intent to defraud. Pursuant to NRS 205.132, it is presumed that a person had the intent to defraud the Casino if the Marker is not paid within five (5) days after receiving Notice of Insufficient Funds. Relatedly, most people are surprised to learn that filing Bankruptcy does NOT stop a criminal prosecution even if the casino debt has been discharged — 11 U.S.C. ß 362(b)(1). However, a Casino may be in violation of the automatic stay if you file for Bankruptcy BEFORE the Casino refers the matter to BCU. Ultimately, winning this race to the courthouse may discourage the prosecutor from pursuing criminal charges given the three-year statute of limitations.
The second thing you should be aware of that may result in a felony prosecution is manipulating the outcome or changing a bet on a casino game so as to gain an advantage over other players. For example, increasing a bet by only $5 during a game of blackjack where the first two hands are displayed can result in a felony charge, That can get you 1-6 years in prison and a fine of not more than $10,000.00. Generally, these cases are prosecuted under the Fraudulent Act Statute (NRS 465.070). Contrary to bad Marker cases, the violation of a gaming statute only requires the State to prove general intent. As a consequence, many plausible or innocent explanations — such as not knowing the specific rules of the casino game, making a mistake during play or being drunk — are not available defenses.
On the flip side of the coin, people should know that Casinos have protected themselves against potential lawsuits based on typical disputes such as incorrect pay-outs based on sports wagers, errors by casino dealers or errors due to a malfunctioning slot. Instead, gaming lobbyists have succeeded in limiting any such recourse to the administrative procedures set out by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB). The bottom line is remember that the house has stacked the legal deck to always win.
Ross C. Goodman, Esq., is a native Las Vegan, 520 South Fourth St., Las Vegas, NV 89101; He can be reached at: Phone 702-383-5088 or fax 702-385-5088. His website is located at: http://goodmanlawgroup.com.