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Gambler who was kicked out of casino must be paid, regulators say

Updated October 4, 2023 - 6:29 pm

A gambler who had been kicked out of a casino for theft but sneaked back in and won a slot machine jackpot must be paid, the Nevada Gaming Control Board decided in a split vote Wednesday.

The board ruled that the Casablanca hotel-casino in Mesquite must pay the $2,045.18 jackpot to player Rhon Wilson. The decision is final and doesn’t have to be considered by the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The ruling was made in a casino-player dispute appeal. Board member George Assad, a retired Las Vegas Municipal Court judge, opposed the decision in the 2-1 vote.

Player dispute appeal decisions rarely favor the gambler. Appeals normally are brought over unpaid jackpots occurring when a slot machine malfunctions.

Casablanca brought the appeal to the board, and a hearing officer recommended the jackpot be paid despite the player being ordered out of the casino.

Wilson had been trespassed from the casino seven times after failing to pay for a drink. But he re-entered the casino, winning jackpots three times over several months.

Dick Tomasso, vice president of security and government affairs for Mesquite Gaming LLC, which owns the casino, appeared before the board to explain the appeal. Wilson was not present at the meeting.

The decision is expected to launch a policy debate over whether people who commit a misdemeanor should be allowed to collect casino winnings. The Gaming Control Board is expected to conduct a regulatory workshop Oct. 18, and the topic of trespassed players winning money is expected to be addressed.

Trespass violation

During public comment, Tomasso told Control Board members that Wilson found it more profitable to pay a misdemeanor fine and continue to gamble than to abide by a trespassing ban.

“Your action will have a profound effect on all your licensees in the state of Nevada,” Tomasso told the board. “Mr. Wilson was continually violating the trespass statute, seven times to be exact. He found it more profitable to pay a small fine and then return to the casino to gamble, knowing that the gaming enforcement policy would allow him to keep his winnings as they did three previous times he was caught violating the trespass statute.

“But before you decide on a course of action, please understand this. Mesquite Gaming has never disputed Nevada gaming enforcement’s authority and legal rights to require casinos pay out winnings for banned individuals. We’ve never disputed that. What we contend is that the gaming enforcement also has the authority and legal rights to deny banned individuals from coming for their winnings based simply on the fact that this banned individual broke the law when he entered a casino, he was still breaking the law while he was gaming. So he had to commit a crime in order to place a wager.”

Assad said it’s clear Nevada’s unwritten policy for paying winnings to anybody who gets a jackpot isn’t necessarily good policy.

Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick and member Brittnie Watkins said it was more important for licensees to pay jackpots, even if they were convicted of a misdemeanor.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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