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The legalities and ethics of sticky casino situations

The Situation: The dealer overpays you or makes a major blunder in a game. Are you allowed, legally, to keep the chips?

A while back, I asked members of my website,, to comment on various moral scenarios that might arise during casino play. I’ll give you the situations I posed; how the law would view it; and what board members had to say.

The Situation: The dealer overpays you or makes a major blunder in a game. Are you allowed, legally, to keep the chips?

The Law: Yes, you are. The law does not make you responsible for a dealer error in a game. If the error isn’t caught, you have no legal responsibility to hand back the money.

But what would you do in such cases? Here are some responses and real-life stories from my website members:

Dr. Crapology: “The [blackjack] dealer looked at her hole card every time she had an ace up. It took me about three times to realize that if she had a face card down, she asked for insurance. If she did not have a face card down, she immediately began to ask anyone if they wanted to hit. So every time she asked for insurance I took it and was successful. The other players thought I was a genius. She was a new dealer who was not being properly supervised, and I did not feel it my job to police the casino employees.”

Section 8: “I’ve had Come bets [in craps] with full odds out on the table. I made my point and the next come-out roll was a winning 7, except for my [losing] Come bets. The dealers ignored taking down my losing Come bets. They left all three Come bets up and working.”


The Retired Ballplayer: “I notice many mistakes by dealers—in payoffs, change, or they pay the wrong player. If a dealer makes a mistake in my favor, silence is a beautiful thing. If the dealer shorts me, I jump their [expletive] in a heart beat!”

The Goddess explained a situation she experienced: “In Pai Gow poker, the dealer’s hand beats the player’s hand, but the dealer called the hand a push and left it.” She didn’t have to do a thing. The dealer did it for her.


Skinny: “I took out a marker at a craps table in LV. I had done that before on the trip, so they cut out the chips right away. About 5-10 minutes later, they brought the marker over for me to sign. It was filled out for a lesser amount than what I had requested and already received in chips. I told them of their error and they were extremely grateful. I expect it was the correct thing to do, morally and legally.”

Rodrigo: “I tend to be honest—but when a dealer makes a mistake, I tend to not be honest. What if a dealer deliberately leaves up a bet of yours that lost as a thank you for tipping? Do you tell on him?”

Here’s another one…

The Situation: A malfunction in a game (or a casino’s) software causes you to win some money you shouldn’t have.

The Law: Any payout yielded by a malfunction will be null and voided.

Section 8: “One particular player’s card issued me an ‘extra 0’ in my total Tier points. Instead of having 8,500 tier points, I suddenly had 85,000—which took me well over their highest and most prized status level. I often wonder when this actually occurred, but I only noticed it a few summers back while playing video poker.

“Yes the moral thing would have been to advise someone. How about doing nothing? I neither took advantage of it during several trips, nor did I tell anyone. However, when I returned home I would just monitor the thing and see if the mistake had been caught. Nothing.

“After about a year of watching this and receiving all sorts of free monthly show tickets, free golf offers, and discounts for weddings and the like, I finally asked someone at the casino player’s [club] about it. They said I had the points for well over a year and that I had been receiving offers and all the benefits for having the points on the card. I was basically told that these are my points and had been such for a while. I’m still leery about it though, and the points are still on the card.”

Steven C.: “The first time we visited Lake Tahoe we took a van from Reno to the Cal Neva resort. I was watching the bags while my then-wife went in search of a phone to call her parents at their condo to let them know we were there so they could pick us up.

“As it happened, there were several banks of slots right there and I thought ‘why not?’ Unfortunately, I only had a couple of quarters in my pocket and this was before you could stuff paper in the slots.

“I remember putting the first quarter in a machine, pulling…and nothing. Then on the second pull—with no fanfare, bells or whistles—the machine empties its little bowels right into the tray.

“Naturally, I was excited about the win. My wife, who had returned and was playing a machine opposite me, asked what I had won. Scanning the tumblers, my answer was ‘nothing.’ There were NO winning combinations showing and so technically, I hadn’t ‘won’ anything.

“Nobody from the casino responded and my wife was asking what we should do. I came up with my ‘Jimmy the Greek theory.’ I grabbed several buckets and started filling them. It wasn’t until they were full and I started putting the remainder in her purse that she thought to ask what I was doing.

“I then educated her on my theory. ‘They are getting off easy,’ I told her. She gave me one of those ‘you have got to be kidding me’ looks. I could tell she didn’t understand so I gave her the rest of the theory. ‘What odds,’ I asked, ‘would Jimmy give me if I told him I was going to walk into this very casino with only two quarters, play them one quarter at a time on a randomly selected machine, and hit a jackpot with no winning combination showing?’ She looked at me strangely and said, ‘‘Astronomical, bazillions to one. So they’re getting off easy.

And then I beat a hasty but happy retreat from the scene of the crime.”

The latest books by gambling’s #1 author, Frank Scoblete, include Casino Craps: Shoot to Win! and Beat Blackjack Now! Both are available at or in your favorite bookstores. You can also order copies at 1-800-944-0406. Frank’s web sites are and For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406.

The legalities and ethics of sticky casino situations.

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