COPS HATE CARD COUNTER
by Bob Nersesian
Bob Nersesian of Las Vegas is the nation's premier attorney when it comes to legal actions against casinos for abuse of patrons. Bob has successfully represented victims of casino abuse in legal forums ranging from Gaming Control Board administrative hearings all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court. Nersesian is also the author of the new book, Beat The Player Ė Casinos, Cops, and the Game Inside the Game. This article is an excerpt from Chapter Eight of the book. This book should be read by anyone who sets foot in a casino and especially by advantage players. We are so impressed with the book that weíve added it to our catalog. BJI subscribers get a 10% discount. Click here for more information about the book and to purchase.
The following is a compilation of events taken from numerous incidents. The single continuous event description is only used for readability. All of the events described herein have occurred to various persons at various casinos in Las Vegas.
Steve and Mike didnít know each other. They played at a two-deck 21 game at the Devilís Island Casino on the strip. Mike had recently flown in from Detroit where he worked as an executive for an automobile manufacturer. Steve was a longtime professional, and was playing under an assumed name.
Mike and Steve were both skilled counters, and won accordingly. The pit noticed the streak and notified surveillance. Surveillance trained two cameras on the play, one of which was directly overhead and showed all of the cards and play. A surveillance officer began watching the play. Mike and Steve also noticed each other, and with nary a wink marveled at the coincidence that two knowing players happened upon the same table. As the pair won, the dealer was changed, and surveillance determined that they were counting. A little extra time was also taken to determine if there was any signaling or other activity occurring because it was strange to see two persons playing a similar count at the same table.
Surveillance notified security, and a brief discussion ensued between the chief on duty and his sergeant. The two determined that Steve and Mike would be 86ed. The sergeant radioed two floor officers and instructed them where they should meet him. They met at the front of the Sand Bar, the sergeant informed them that they were going to approach table four in pit one, and that the first and fourth seats were being 86ed as counters. The policy and practice was regular, and all the officers understood their job.
The three approached table four, and one agent each tapped Steve and Mike on their left shoulders. Steve and Mike were told to pick up their chips and step away from the table to where the sergeant was standing. This is where things diverged.
Steve stood, picked up his chips, and said to the security officer that he chose to leave, and was leaving. Mike picked up his chips and walked to the sergeant. The security officer stated to Steve that he could not leave until the sergeant spoke to him. The demeanor of the security officer told Steve he had no choice. Steve, too, walked to the sergeant.
The sergeant told both Mike and Steve that they were to accompany him to the security office. Steve stated, "I am not going to the security office. I will cash in my chips and leave." Mike said nothing. Steve moved as if to walk towards the nearest exit. The nearest officer stepped in front of him and stated forcefully that he was to accompany them to the security office. Steve stopped and asked why he should do that and could the officers please tell him what he had done. All three stood mute, and moved towards the main entrance while placing their hands gently on Steve and Mike as if to direct them.
Steve continued to protest, stating that he was not voluntarily accompanying them to the security office. Mike picked up on the discourse and also expressed a desire to leave. Next to the main entrance a door was marked "SECURITY," and it was clear that the security officers were headed there.
As they approached the security office, Steve continued to walk straight towards the exit. One of the security agents ran to a point directly between Steve and the exit. Steve attempted to go around the security officer, and the security officer attempted to stay between Steve and the door. Steve reached a door handle and pushed his way out the door. At this point, the security officer placed a headlock on Steve, and the second security officer came up and grabbed Steve around the waist. Steve continued to struggle to leave. At no point did he strike a security officer, and it was clear that his actions merely sought an exit from the casino. Steve was thrown to the ground, then picked up, then physically dragged back to the security office.
Once in the security office, Steve and Mike were placed on adjoining seats and told to sit still. An officer handcuffed Steve to the chair. Steve and Mike both again asked why they were taken to the security office. No answer was given, and they were told to shut up.
A moment later another officer came in with a camera. He took a couple of pictures of Steve and Mike and left. A few minutes later one of the original security officers approached the gamblers and read the following from a piece of paper: "As a duly authorized representative of the owner, you are advised that you are trespassing upon this property. You must leave immediately, and if you return you will be subject to arrest for criminal trespassing."
"So why am I here?" Asked Steve.
"In order that we could formally trespass you," came the response.
"You could do that out on the floor."
That was the end of the conversation. Steve went immediately to the hospital for his bruises. His face was covered with visible contusions and he was bleeding from the nose. After the hospital, Steve went to the nearest police station. He described the events and requested that he be allowed to swear out a complaint against the casino and the offending security officers.
Not only was Steve rebuffed, he was maligned. The officers accused him of cheating through card counting. Steve pressed and begged that a complaint be taken. He tried to go up the chain of command. The police eventually called the casino, and the casino admitted that they had taken Steve into custody for card counting and that he resisted. Rather than an admission of guilt, the police took the casinoís statement as a valid excuse. Steve was told to leave the police station immediately, or he would be arrested for disturbing the peace. Steve left.
Steve returned with an attorney. The attorney cited line and verse the various crimes committed by the casino. The attorney was told that Steve was cheating. The attorney responded that Steve was card counting. The police officer responded, "Exactly." The attorney was well armed and pulled out the authority recognizing card counting as an expressly legal activity. Even with this and with the admission of the casino that Steve had been taken into custody for a legal activity, the police refused the criminal report. They did allow a voluntary statement, which apparently cannot be refused anyone who wants to file one. All it does is generate an incident number though.
The attorney continued to press. Letters were written to the higher echelons of the police department, again citing line and verse relative to the battery and the false imprisonment suffered by Steve. The police responded by saying that they would not get involved in this "civil matter." Letters were written to the highest levels of the prosecutorís office. They were ignored. Steve was left with just his civil suit. It certainly appears difficult to have the authorities enforce the criminal law against a gaming licensee.
Curiously, I have now received at least nine judgments and/or verdicts against casinos and their personnel for taking patrons to the security office against their will. Four of these resulted directly from the detention of a card counter. The judgments were for false imprisonment. That is, the judgments were for the commission of a crime against the patron, and the Nevada juries and judges recognized this crime. Moreover, it is apparent that forcing someone into a closed security office against their will and without any corollary wrongdoing is most certainly a crime, and I would suggest that it is a heinous crime. While juries understand this and many judges understand it, there are obvious and compelling written declarations that the police and the prosecutors donít and wonít understand it.
POSTSCRIPT: A jury recognized the law (unlike the police and the prosecutor), and awarded Steve a six-figure judgment against the casino and its security.
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