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by LVBear

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,


John Ascauagís Nugget Tells Employees to Lie to Patrons

We all know lying to the public is part of a normal day for many front-line casino employees. Dealers lie about 6 to 5 blackjack not being as bad as it is, reservations agents lie about the hotel being sold out, pit supervisors lie about not being able to issue certain comps. All of that is expected, and is an unfortunate part of a business whose main function is to extract money from its customers while offering nothing in return.

However, when employees are specifically told by their supervisors to lie about government regulations, the lying has gone too far. See the complaint below, recently filed with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and originally published on
BJ21.comís Green Chip. For those unfamiliar with the Reno area, JA Nugget is a large, successful casino in Sparks. I like the Nugget, and am dismayed to learn about this despicable practice. If the facts are as stated, letís hope Gaming agrees that the lying has gone too far, and takes appropriate action to punish the Nugget and the dishonest employees involved:

Complaint for violation of
Regulation 5.010 by John Ascuagaís Nugget

On August 6, 2010, playerís club employee (name deleted here, but is in the complaint) stated that "Gaming regulations" require John Ascuagaís Nugget to scan a patronís identification into its computer system before a playerís card can be issued. Obviously, there is no such regulation. When questioned further about it, (the employee) said, "Thatís what our supervisors told us to say when someone asks."

If this employee was being truthful, the supervisors essentially instructed their employees to lie to the public. It is bad enough that the odious practice of copying identification by scanning has become so prevalent, to the detriment of the gaming public. Certainly it is within a licenseeís rights to set such a requirement as a policy or condition of receiving a playerís card. But a licensee instructing frontline employees to outright lie about non-existent government regulations to try to convince patrons to permit such scanning appears to be an unsuitable method of operation, in violation of Regulation 5.010. ...


As regular readers know, I am a frequent critic of the Nevada Gaming Control Board for failing to use its considerable enforcement power to punish wrongdoing by casinos and their employees. I dislike the Boardís ability to legally operate in secret in most cases. I think transparency would be best for Nevada and best for the industry, because the fear of bad publicity might provide more incentive for top management to curb wrongdoing by casino employees. If errant employees were publicly named, the scorn and shame might make some think twice before engaging in wrongful or criminal behavior.

As it stands now, most investigations never get public scrutiny. Punishment by Gaming, when agreed to by the offending casino, is done in secret, private deals that never see the sunshine. This is not healthy for the industry, and is not healthy for the reputation of the Gaming Control Board. It would be appropriate for the Board and Nevada Gaming Commission to request that the legislature change the statutes permitting the Board to operate in secret, and instead impose the same openness that is required of most government agencies.

Be that as it may, I commend the Board for recently taking action against Treasure Island in Las Vegas. According to the details of
the complaint, a patron arguably pulled a cheating move by removing a $500 bet after the cards were dealt in a mini-baccarat game. In the absence of more complete information, we cannot be sure it was a cheating move, but it is reasonable for the casino to believe it was cheating. Casino guards seized the patron and forcibly backroomed him, probably within their rights.

But what happened next is bizarre, and makes one wonder if this particular casino shift manager has a functioning brain. Instead of immediately notifying the Gaming Control Board and/or Metro police, as is legally required when casino security "detains" a person, the casino shift manager essentially committed a robbery of the patron. While the patron was handcuffed, casino employees rummaged through his pockets. The shift boss found five black Treasure Island chips and stole them from the patron. Then, the guards trespassed the patron and walked him out the door. No law enforcement involvement whatsoever. Instead, because of their "self-help," it can be reasonably argued that the casino employees committed several felonies, including kidnapping and robbery. The possible cheater became a crime victim. No allegation of cheating was made with the authorities. The "detention," use of force, kidnapping, and robbery of the patron became the crimes because of the abject stupidity of these casino employees.

Though the Board did not specifically address the felonies committed by the casino employees, it filed a complaint against Treasure Island for unsuitable method of operation. It would be in the best interest of the public to have casino employees individually prosecuted for crimes they commit, just as any other individual. But that is not likely to happen in the near future, absent a vicious beating administered by guards resulting in serious injury or death to a patron, or some similar circumstance that is too egregious for the usual cover-up.

Treasure Island quickly
settled the complaint for a paltry $10,000 fine and agreeing to train its employees properly, which it should have done all along. Because this complaint became public, rather than the usual secret settlement, we can only assume TI refused to cooperate or admit its wrongdoing until the glare of bad publicity hit it right in its corporate nose. Suddenly it wanted to settle, and have the problem go away.

Posted on Green Chip:

Ö a fine of about $250,000 would have been more appropriate, but itís interesting how quickly Treasure Island settled, and good to see Mr. Ruffin himself have to sign on its behalf. Ruffin cannot later claim he didnít know how his employees behaved, though this settlement was carefully crafted to try to avoid any personal liability for Ruffin.

I wonder if the District Attorney will file robbery charges against the shift manager who stole the $500 from the illegally detained patron. It appears that the circumstances are strikingly similar to the robbery charge against O.J. Simpson that was prosecuted with such vigor. "Trying to recover his own allegedly stolen property," use of force, illegal detention, etc. I see no real distinction between this and the Simpson robbery case.

The good news from this is that the Gaming Control Board took this seriously, even if the specific charges and the settlement were weak, and there apparently will not be any punishment for the shift manager. I think illegal detentions of advantage players might get some action from the Gaming Control Board in the future, if promptly called to the Boardís attention.

Though the penalty was too small, I think this is an important case for patron rights vs. casino abuse. I congratulate the Gaming Control Board for getting involved in a case that in the past it would ignore. Letís hope for more Gaming involvement in false imprisonment cases.

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