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Las Vegas is like an adult theme park. Whether it is live shows, gambling or unusual museums, there is something for everyone in this town. It is truly a place to escape from the doldrums of everyday life.

However, one wrong move in a casino can result in a nightmare. Nevada law gives casinos more rights than their patrons. This often results in false charges, improper imprisonment, and a criminal law ordeal that leads to stress and heartache.

If you face this unfortunate situation, you need a skilled criminal defense who can thoroughly dissect the casino’s case and get your charges dismissed. Here is what you need to know about casinos and improper imprisonment.

Right of Casinos to Imprison Patrons

Generally, a casino may detain you if they believe you committed a felony on the premises. Specific acts related to gambling such as cheating, using a device for calculating the probability of winning or misrepresenting the results of a wager are violations that lead casinos to detain employees or patrons.

Insider information is another violation. Like insider trading in the stock market, this offense involves using data that is not publicly available to plan or withdraw a wager. Sometimes, this is related to slot machines and other gaming devices being manipulated in order to clean out other patrons. Such devices may also be adjusted to increase the odds of winning and using those machines knowing you have an advantage can lead to criminal charges.

Marker debt is another reason casinos started detaining people. A form of IOU, this system allows patrons to gamble more without currency ever changing hands. Treated like a check draft, the casino makes a withdrawal from your account for the amount of the debt. If the payment is returned, the casino will either retain the patron during their next visit or work with the district attorney to arrange for an arrest and conviction. Even if you live out-of-state, the state of Nevada will extradite you so you can be tried here in Clark County.

Other reasons for casino imprisonment may include drinking excessively or intimidating employees and other patrons. In most of these cases, the casino removes the offending customers. Detention is usually reserved for gambling-related offenses, marker debt, and fraud.

Limits to Detention

While Nevada law gives casinos wide discretion in deciding who is detained, there are limits to that power. When they are violated, it offers patrons grounds to dismiss criminal charges and file civil lawsuits.

Casinos may only detain patrons for a reasonable amount of time, usually the amount of time required for a peace officer to appear and take custody of the suspect. If there is no intention to call the police, the casino cannot detain you. It is reasonable that if you are held for hours or even days, the detainment is about intimidation–not using legal process.

When patrons are detained, casinos cannot mistreat them. There are frequent claims of abuse and assault while in custody at a casino and this has lead to an increase in civil lawsuits. Many claims are backed up by video evidence and often result in the award of large verdicts for Plaintiffs. In one case, the Imperial Palace faced a verdict against it when it was sued for imprisonment and assault. The Plaintiff enjoyed a $250,000 award in that case.

If the action is shown to be unreasonable, the casino does not enjoy civil or criminal immunity from possible charges. It is often a question for the jury in both civil and criminal cases whether the conduct of casino staff was reasonable in light of the evidence.

Improperly detained?

Charges surrounding improper detainment are often dismissed on one of two grounds. The first being a lack of evidence. Many patrons end up detained because they seem “too lucky” or security personnel just have a hunch. Most of these accusations do not have the evidence to make it through preliminary hearings much less a criminal trial. It is nearly impossible to prove the charges or that detainment is necessary unless you are caught on video manipulating machines, counting cards, or committing any other gambling offense.

The second ground is unreasonable behavior. If a casino imprisons a patron for too long or assaults them, there is a possibility for a civil lawsuit and dismissed criminal charges. This is especially true if evidence is weak and staff never intend to contact a police officer to arrest the patron. The imprisonment presents merely as harassment rather than a good-faith attempt to stop criminal behavior on the premises. Not even the most permissive Nevada laws allow that to occur.


Gabriel L. Grasso is a criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas who offers vast experience representing patrons who face charges arising from casinos. If your Las Vegas vacation becomes a legal nightmare, call our office today to schedule a consultation.

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