With tourists and locals spending billions of dollars each year in Las Vegas, casino gambling is the lifeblood of the local economy. As a result, Nevada lawmakers have written harsh laws to punish casino cheating, and local prosecutors take accusations of cheating very seriously.
There are many different cheating methods that are well known to Las Vegas casinos. These include switching cards or chips, employing an accomplice dealer to deal cards favorably, placing chips on a roulette table when betting is not allowed, or the use of hidden cameras or computer devices to cheat at table games or slot machines. Chapter 465 of the Nevada Revised Statutes defines five separate types of casino cheating offenses, outlined below, and sets harsh punishments for all of these crimes.
The general prohibition against casino cheating is NRS 465.083, which states, "[i]t is unlawful for any person, whether the person is an owner or employee of or a player in an establishment, to cheat at any gambling game." This is a vaguely written statute. But NRS 465.015 provides some clarification by defining what it means to "cheat."
According to NRS 465.015, to "cheat" means "to alter the elements of chance, method of selection, or criteria" which determine: "(a) the result of a game; (b) the amount or frequency of payment in a game; (c) the value of a wagering instrument; or (d) the value of a wagering credit." To simplify this definition, cheating is doing anything outside the rules of the game that changes the odds of winning in the player's favor. This can cover any of the numerous known casino cheats.
NRS 465.070 lists several different examples of acts which constitute gambling fraud. Specifically, there are eight listed acts which constitute gambling fraud.
The first listed act constituting gaming fraud is "alter[ing] or misrepresent[ing] the outcome of a game or other event on which wagers have been made after the outcome is made sure but before it is revealed to the players."
The second type of gaming fraud is placing a bet, increasing a bet, or decreasing a bet based on inside information that other players don't know. These first two types of gaming fraud usually require the help of an accomplice casino employee.
The third type of gaming fraud listed in NRS 465.070 involves claiming winnings on a bet the player did not, in fact, legitimately wager on, or attempting to collect an amount greater than that which the player actually won.
The fourth type of gambling fraud is knowingly enticing or inducing another person to go to a casino to cheat at gambling as defined in Chapter 465 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. So if one person encourages another person to cheat at a casino, the first person has committed gambling fraud under this statute.
The fifth type of gambling fraud is placing a bet after the player knows the outcome of the game. This includes "past-posting" and "pressing bets." Past-posting involves placing a bet in roulette after the ball has dropped and betting is no longer allowed. Pressing a bet can involve increasing one's bet in a table or card game after the outcome is known or when the odds of winning have increased.
The sixth listed type of casino fraud is reducing the amount wagered or cancelling the bet after acquiring knowledge that the player has made a losing bet or his odds of winning have decreased. This is referred to as "pinching" a bet.
The seventh listed type of gaming fraud involves manipulating a gaming device such as a slot machine in a manner not consistent with the device's intended use. This can include "varying the pull of the handle of a slot machine, with knowledge that the manipulation affects the outcome of the game." Essentially, if you discover a trick that allows you to win in a slot machine and you exploit that trick, you are guilty of gaming fraud under this subsection of the statute.
The eighth and final type of gaming fraud listed in NRS 465.070 involves fraud related to sports betting. In particular, it is gaming fraud to bribe someone to influence the outcome of a sporting event, or to place or alter a bet based on inside information that someone has been bribed and the result of a sporting event has been influenced.
NRS 465.075 prohibits the use of cheating devices. A cheating device is any outside device that gives the player an advantage in any casino game. This includes any device that projects an outcome, keeps track of cards, analyzes probabilities, or gives strategies in any casino game.
NRS 465.080 prohibits acts related to counterfeit chips, gaming tokens, wagering credits or other wagering instruments used in casino gaming. Pursuant to this statute, it is illegal not only to use counterfeit chips and other gaming tokens, but to manufacture or possess these items while in a casino.
NRS 465.085 prohibits manufacturing, selling, or distributing equipment designed to cheat at gambling. This includes cards, chips, dice, or any devices intended to be used for cheating. It is also unlawful under this statute to teach someone how to cheat at gambling or show that person how to use a cheating device, with the knowledge or intent that the information or use so conveyed may be employed to cheat a gambling establishment.
An attempt to commit any of the acts outlined above, or entering into a conspiracy to commit any of these acts, is punishable as a felony offense with the same penalty as the completed crime. Ordinarily, attempting but failing to commit a crime, or entering into an agreement with others to commit a crime, but not actually committing the crime itself, is a lesser offense. Not so with casino cheating. The punishment is exactly the same.
Each of the above offenses is a category B felony. A first offense is punishable by a prison sentence of 1 to 6 years as well as a $10,000 fine. A second offense has the same potential sentence, but the judge cannot grant the defendant probation. In other words, for a first conviction, the defendant may receive a suspended sentence and probation. However, for a second offense, the court must sentence the defendant to serve a time in prison. Under Nevada's sentencing rules, for a second conviction for casino cheating, a defendant would have to serve a minimum of one year in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
Gaming cheating and gaming fraud are very serious offenses which encompass a very broad array of alleged acts. The potential defenses to accusations of casino cheating and casino fraud are as diverse as the various acts which are described under these statutes. In every accused instance of casino cheating, it is the prosecutor's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, even when the evidence is strong, it is possible to avoid the harsh penalties described above. So if you or someone you care about has been accused of cheating in a Las Vegas casino, call me now for a free consultation.
By Michael Pandullo