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 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 years 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 District Attorney’s Office . 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: www.goodmanlawgroup.com.