Obscure law helping casinos in Colorado prosecute gamblers

Nearly 1,000 individuals have been cited or arrested in the state of Colorado due to a little-known law titled ‘Fraud-take money not won.’

FOX31 was able to obtain court records that show within a five-year time frame, 728 visitors in Central City and Black Hawk were cited or arrested based on the law and just over 200 in Cripple Creek. The casinos utilized Statue 12-47.1-823(1)(c) in their efforts to arrest or cite casino goers who unwittingly used abandoned slot credits found at a gaming machine or cashed in a credit voucher found on the game floor. The range of player indiscretions also includes finding and using chips that were dropped or forgotten by another player to a variety of less innocent crimes, such as trying to swipe blackjack chips or cheating at roulette.

Casinos, by law, own abandoned, lost or forgotten ‘property’ inside the walls of their facility. And through its investigation, FOX31 found that Colorado casinos pull no punches when exercising their right to retain any such property. An example being customers who are jailed if necessary to collect every cent,  as a result of a collaboration between casino security and Department of Revenue Gaming Division Enforcement Agents.

The news agency was able to uncover that since mid-2012, a total of 469 visitors to casinos in Gilpin County were arrested and at least 78 of those individuals went to jail on misdemeanor casino fraud charges.

FOX31 reportedly found an instance in the court records that show an individual who visited Johnny Z’s Casino earlier in the year and played a $2 credit that was left on a machine next to him. Upon returning to the casino and swiping his player card, the individual says he was approached by state gaming enforcement officers and security and taken to a room where he was told he stole $2 from the venue.

The individual said he would gladly pay back the money and that he was not aware that it was a crime to play the credits that had been abandoned. According to court records, the player not only had to pay upwards of $250 in fines, but he also had to pay for probation services, FBI fingerprinting and criminal background. Additionally, he had to perform a minimum of 24 hours of community service, was banned from casinos for a year a 7BALL nd ended up, some months later, with a criminal record after being forced to plead guilty to misdemeanor fraud to receive a deferred sentence. All of that reportedly resulted from him playing an abandoned $2 voucher.

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Terry O’Malley is an attorney in Denver whose law firm is now reportedly representing two individuals who face casino fraud charges. One individual reportedly found chips in the outdoor smoking area of a venue while the other client reportedly found a credit ticket on the floor.

Fox31 reports that upon visiting most of the casinos listed as complainants in court records, including  The Lodge, Ameristar, Sasquatch, The Isle, Wild Card Saloon, Lady Luck, Golden Gates, Monarch and Johnny Z’s, they were not able to find any notable warning signs alerting slot machine players to the criminal risks of playing abandoned credits.