THE BEAR GROWLS
Long-time Las Vegas-based advantage player, casino critic, and frequent Blackjack Insider contributor LVBear offers his opinions on things that sometimes go wrong in the world of casinos. Current and past growls can be read, and comments posted, at LVBear's website,TheBearGrowls.com.
VEGAS CLUB-CHEATERS, IDIOTS, OR BOTH?
My friend Bradley Peterson posted the below atLas Vegas Advisor.com.
It is reprinted here with permission:
For the first time in my life, I have had to contact the Nevada Gaming Board. The following is what occurred that prompted my call and subsequent filed complaint.
On Wednesday, October 28th, I went to the Vegas Club at about 8:45PM and signed up for their slot player card, which I had never done before. I did this as they have a new player reward program that could reward a new player with a maximum of $280 in free play if one obtained a certain number of player points. A friend of mine signed up and played as well. We started playing at about 9PM. The Vegas Club has one of those virtual blackjack machines that have been popping up around town. The house edge with the rules offered and perfect play is about .60% so it is slightly more in the house’s favor than full pay 9-6 jacks or better video poker. The machine had a minimum bet of $2 and a maximum bet of $25. (Note: I was told that the machine had a maximum wager of $40 just a few days before but somebody experienced positive standard deviation and won about $3,000 on it, so I assume that was why the limits were lowered). I played two hands on the five player machine and my friend played two hands. Other casino players that I didn’t know would occasionally drift in and out on the one unoccupied hand in seat #1. We were drinking, playing and having a good time. Just like one is supposed to have in a casino experience. I even made some operator button input errors. For example, one time I accidentally hit a hard 19 and, of course, busted. My friend got lucky and was winning while I was losing. He earned enough points to qualify for the highest initial free play reward bonus and quit sometime after midnight ahead $385. During this same time, I found myself down about $400 so I stubbornly kept playing. Before I knew it, I was down $650 and was wishing that I had just quit but I kept playing (might have been the wine) and got lucky and was ahead for the session a whopping $40. Since it was now 1AM and I had many more points than I needed to get the maximum new player bonus reward, I also quit playing at that time. The slot club booth at the Vegas Club closes at midnight so I did not get my free play arranged at that time but I knew, according to the rules posted on the Vegas Club promotional flyer, that I had 24 hours to get all of that arranged.
My friend and I returned the following evening, Thursday, October 28th, at about 9PM to complete the transactions in order to get the $280 in free play that the Vegas Club had advertised. I was also entitled to an additional $60 in free play for the base points that I had earned while playing the night before, so I was expecting a total of $340 in free play. I handed my card and ID to the players’ club representative. She went into the computer after a bit of a delay then said that a supervisor had to handle the transaction. The clerk switched positions with the supervisor who was occupying another window with customers. After tinkering a bit, she said that she was having problems with the computer and had to go to another computer, which was located behind a desk in the players’ club booth. Time was passing and she was still there, as well as on the telephone. I went off to use the bathroom and returned to find no service still. I then went to check out one of the bars. It had already been a good 20 minutes or more since we arrived at the slot club booth. When I returned from the bar, there were three suits and a security guard around my friend. When I arrived, the head suit said that our play was not welcome in the casino and that we would not be getting the free play that we had earned. How could this be? How can they make an offer, I comply and complete their offered program, risking my money and bankroll while doing so, and then they say that they will not honor the contract that they wrote! I was very upset and left to make a phone call and while I was gone, my friend was read the trespass act!
Feeling cheated, I called the Nevada Gaming Control Board the next day. I told the agent what had happened and he advised that I go back into the property, find the highest ranking official on property and, if the situation could not be resolved, call him back and put said casino official on the phone with the agent directly. I did so. The slot booth clerk was the slot club supervisor from the night before so she recognized me and knew me by name. I told her what I wanted. She said that I should go to The Plaza (sister property to the Vegas Club) to find this person. I called the gaming agent again and he suggested that I stay on Vegas Club property and again stated that I should get whomever was the highest ranking official. More waiting. For maybe 45 minutes to an hour. (Note that waiting is the way of the world with the people and management at the Vegas Club, see below). Finally, three guys show up with a security guard and escort me into the office adjacent to the slot club booth. Only one of the four attendees actually spoke to me. He was rude. He was crass. He was trying to be intimidating. He spoke harshly and loudly. He refused to give me his name or a business card. He wanted to know what I wanted and I told him. He said that I wasn’t entitled to anything. He knew that I had already had been in touch with gaming as I had made that clear at the slot club booth. He kept saying to me that I knew what I had done. That he had tapes and that if I wanted to contact gaming, that I should go ahead. He kept bashing me asking me to admit to what I had done? I was perplexed. I was flabbergasted. What had I done? I only played their machine that the casino has an edge on that I cannot possibly beat in the long run in order to participate in the program. Was that supposed to be wrong? He kept insisting that I knew what I had done and he said that all I was getting was my points cashed out, that would have been $60 in free play, at their cash value of $30 and that he was being generous at that and that I was precluded from the property. Since I had done nothing wrong, I did indeed try to call the agent at gaming again from the room where I was being insulted. Unfortunately, my phone had a bad connection from the internal confines of that room and the agent kept saying that I was breaking up. I told the rude man that I was not going to sign for the measly $30 and I got up to leave to go outside to call Nevada Gaming Control Board. He said that I was to go to a back room and be "processed". Right. No way, Mr. Manure for Brains. I just calmly walked out the closest door; all the while all the suits were yelling at the security guard to, "Read it to him" (the trespass act), but he engaged on a previously started call while I started walking and he didn’t get started until I was at the at the door and I was in and across the street before he got through even one sentence. I called the Nevada Gaming Control Board again. Unfortunately, the agent who had been advising me had left for the day so I explained the entire situation to another agent who said that he would be sending a field agent out to meet me.
The field agent called me back and we arranged a time to meet in front of the Vegas Club. When I arrived, he was there with a second agent. I told both of them all that had happened to me. They asked if I had any idea what the rude, "I won’t even give you my name," guy was talking about. I told them that I had no idea, and between that, and being cheated, was why I called Gaming to begin with. The main agent said to come inside the casino with him. Once inside, he asked for whoever was in authority. In the meantime, I was asked to complete a complaint, which I did. However, just as I had to wait so long on a couple of different occasions, nobody arrived for the Nevada Gaming Control Board agents for quite some time. Quite some time enough that he commented about their tardiness on more than one occasion. Finally Mr. Congeniality arrives with his friends and the main agent goes off to conference with them while I sit and wait with agent number two. By the way, both agents were pleasant, professional and personable. When agent number one returns, he tells me that he was basically told the same thing, that they didn’t want my play on the property so I would not be getting my free play that the Vegas Club had advertised even though I had completed their program successfully and in good faith. Also that they would cash out my points at the 1/2 free play level and pay me $30. I asked him what they had accused me of doing, as I was still perplexed and had no idea what could possibly cause such a reaction, other than the Vegas Club trying to cheat me by not allowing me to have or play my free play.
What he told me astonished me! He said that the Vegas Club representatives had accused me of playing as a team and pushing combinations of buttons on the machine in order to make the game pay off! WTF!!!??? You have to be kidding me? How ignorant and or stupid could the management of this place possibly be? Really? That is what they believed? I can’t think that the Gaming agent really believed this either because if this was even possible (and I doubt that it is possible with not, at least, inside programming help on the machines), I am certain that I would have committed something illegal and I would guess that I should have been arrested immediately! This was obviously not the case. And if I had done something so horrible, why would they even bother to pay me the $30 for my points? I was so stunned and shocked at this out of left field nonsensical excuse to not pay me that all I could do was laugh! These machines are all over town. Why would I bother playing at one with the lowest maximum in town of $25? And if I had actually done this, why was it that I was losing during my entire session until my last hand and that I only won $40? Does that sound like the results of somebody who had insider programming information? What stupid fools!
So I can only conclude at this point that the management at the Vegas Club is amongst the least informed and least intelligent in the entire state. Or that their ridiculous excuse is merely that, and is really a smoke screen to avoid fulfilling their own written-out offered promotion. Or that both of the above are true and accurate!
I am also attaching a follow-up letter that I sent to the main investigating Nevada Gaming Control Board agent. Out of respect for him and his privacy, I have omitted his name.
In a message dated 10/31/2009 8:02:29 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, XXXXXX writes:
Dear Mr. XXXXX,
Thank you for your assistance yesterday regarding the incident and events at Vegas Club. I appreciate, expect and respect the courtesy and professionalism extended by both you and your assistant yesterday.
After departing, I realized that I did not obtain a copy of my statement. How can I obtain a copy of the statement, report or any associated paperwork on the case?
Also, since departing, I have had more time to consider the comments made by the Vegas Club representatives and I am 100% certain that they are using fabricated stories to avoid paying me the proceeds that I fairly earned. When you told me that they claimed that I was using magical mechanical abilities to manipulate and control the machine, of course all I could do was laugh. Please consider the following.
1) If I were doing something like this — and I’d assume this wouldn’t even be possible without there being some sort of illegal inside-help arrangement — I certainly wouldn’t have gotten GCB involved.
2) If I really was capable of doing this, then why was it that after all of this time playing would I be satisfied with a $40 profit, and not $400 or $4,000?
3) Along the same lines as above, why would I play the Vegas Club machine that has a maximum bet of $25 when across the street, at the Horseshoe, I could play the exact same machine with a $200 maximum bet?
Of course the answer to all of the questions above is that I don’t have the ability to do what Vegas Club is claiming in an attempt to avoid fulfilling their end of the contract that we entered into when I signed up for their player card program. And specifically relating to question #3, the reason I was playing on the machine in their casino was because I was simply trying to complete the requirements they set forth so that I could obtain the maximum value of $280 in free play that they offered in their new-player sign up program.
In the final analysis, the management at the Vegas Club has to be either highly misinformed, or are using deceitful measures and methods to avoid paying me the advertised bonuses.
I am a well known and well respected gambler. I have been on television a dozen times playing in major tournaments, as well as in documentaries. I have written for and contributed to several gambling publications. In addition to my given name, I also write and sometimes appear on television under my pen name of Bradley Peterson. I understand the rules and abided by them at Vegas Club.
Thank you again for your kind attention and most appreciated cooperation and I will look forward to the findings and resolution that your Board will research and adjudicate in approximately 29 days. If I can add anything, answer any further questions or provide anything else to be of assistance to you or the Board, please do not hesitate to ask me.
It certainly appears that this is a case of a casino trying to take advantage of the Gaming Control Board and take a free shot at a patron it does not like. In the absence of any circumstances that Mr. Peterson is unaware of, the appropriate resolution would seem to be that the Board orders Vegas Club to pay him, and brings an unsuitable practices complaint against Vegas Club. This is plainly an attempt to cheat a patron. Let’s hope the Gaming Control Board makes an example of Vegas Club, so the common practice of casinos welching on promotions can be reduced.
NEVADA GAMING CONTROL WON’T PUNISH CASINO WRONGDOING
As regular readers of this column know, I often criticize Gaming. I think the agency is much too cozy with the industry it is supposed to be policing. I think it fails to mete out adequate penalties when casinos try to cheat patrons. Indeed, most of the time there is no penalty whatsoever for cheating attempts or other misconduct. The casino essentially gets a free roll to cheat patrons. All that happens is it is ordered to pay what it should have paid in the first place; no further penalties. This is Gaming’s biggest weakness it does not use its considerable statutory authority and latitude in a way that would discourage casinos from trying to cheat patrons or engage in other unsavory practices. A few fines against individual dishonest employees and revocations of their "work permits" would go a long way in discouraging the common mindset of "we get one free bite" that has infested the industry. Referrals to the DA for criminal prosecutions of casino executives who try to cheat patrons, and security thugs who commit violent felonies (forcible backroomings and illegal "detentions") would help reduce these incidents. Sadly, Gaming is woefully inadequate in taking meaningful enforcement action in these cases. The most egregious recent example is Gaming’s refusal to take action indozens of false imprisonment and extortion cases admitted to by casinos.
Nevertheless, Gaming is fairly good in properly resolving simple patron disputes. It does err in favor of casinos too often, but overall I think the individual patron usually gets a fair shake. When there is large-scale dishonesty or malfeasance, as in the recent Hard Rock/IGT/Krider case , or going back a few years, the Eldorado Reno/MindPlay cheating incidents, the patron(s) has very little chance of meaningful recompense for being wronged. But in petty individual cases like this Vegas Club incident, at the field agent level the patron often recovers what is owed him or her.
I personally have had Gaming involved in disputes with casinos fifteen times. Twelve times Gaming ruled in my favor and the casino complied with the ruling. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, in none of the twelve cases was the casino or its employees punished for the wrongful behavior that resulted in my complaints. Admittedly, my complaints may have a higher success rate than the average complainant, as I have good working knowledge of the statutes and regulations, and involve Gaming only when I am certain the casino is wrong. In the three cases in which Gaming ruled against me, I believe the field agent was mistaken in his interpretation of regulations or the facts, but I did not pursue any of cases through the administrative appeals process. Had I done so, I might be fifteen for fifteen.
In the Vegas Club cheating attempt, I think Gaming will rule in the patron’s favor, and he will be paid, or given the opportunity to play the free play that is due him. But I doubt if any of the dishonest Vegas Club executives will be punished in any way, and I doubt if the casino itself will be punished in any way. Again, this is Gaming’s glaring weakness. If it becomes clear that the apparent attempt to cheat Mr. Peterson came from personal dislike of him, or because he was identified as a brain-using patron, there should be a large fine against the casino as well as firing, banning from the gaming industry, and criminal prosecution of the executives involved in the cheating attempt. When proper punishment starts happening, this bad behavior by casino people will be curtailed, and the industry might respect Gaming, instead of treating it like a drinking buddy. Until then, in Nevada it continues to be open season on casino patrons, and Gaming’s enforcement continues to be a laughingstock.
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