This week’s big fraud claims and robbery cases hitting the news was accompanied by a lesser-shared piece involving casinos in Colorado, but it’s one which has resulted in more than 700 casino customers and 202 slot-machine players being cited or arrested under a little-known law.
According to Kdvr.com, their crimes have ranged from ‘innocently playing abandoned slot credits left on machines by other customers’ to ‘finding forgotten or dropped chips’ – with information released by the casinos also pointing to ‘less innocent crimes’ including ‘cheating at roulette’ and that poker classic – ‘failing to honor a raise’.
In a week which saw an armed robber swipe $35,000 from the Bellagio cash cage and former Amaya CEO David Baazov and others sued for allegedly stealing $707,000 intended for a Kenyan charity, Colorado court records indicate that in Colorado’s Gilpin County alone there have been 469 casino customers arrested and at least 78 of them imprisoned in the last 5 years for misdemeanor ‘casino fraud’.
The eye-opening article relates the story of one man whose only ‘crime’ was playing the $2 left on a slot machine by another customer.
Dan, whose last name is not used to protect his professional state licence, went to Johnny Z's Casino in Central City earlier this year to hit the slots – and used the $2 credit left on a machine by a previous customer – a common occurrence as most casino-goers will testify.
For Dan, however, it was to prove an expensive mistake, with casino security and state gaming enforcement officers pulling him up on his very next visit.
"I go upstairs to the third floor into a dirty little room and someone tells me I stole $2 from the casino," Dan told reporters.
He had fallen foul of a little-known law - Colorado Statute 12-47.1-823(1)(c). which forces the Division of Gaming ‘to investigate cases involving fraudulent acts to provide consumer protection in situations where one patron’s money is taken by another patron’.
Denver attorney Terry O’Malley says:
“You find a dollar on the sidewalk out front, you're OK. You find a $5 bill, you can celebrate and go have a hamburger. But if you find it inside of a casino? You may be heading to jail. For sure, you're going to get charged with a criminal offense.”
For Dan, who was happy to pay back the $2 and apologise for not knowing it was illegal to play ‘abandoned credits’, felt forced to plead guilty to misdemeanor fraud in order to be offered a deferred sentence’.
“They said they had it all on camera. I was guilty, I guess. You’re certainly not stealing it from the casino because it wasn’t theirs to begin with,” said Dan said. “There are certainly times where there are ‘laws,’ but they are not morally or ethically correct.”
He eventually had to pay ‘more than $250 in fines, plus pay for his own FBI criminal background and fingerprinting, pay for probation services, perform at least 24 hours of community service and be banned from all casinos for a year’, say kdvr.com.