A casino marker is an interest-free line of credit that Nevada casinos offer patrons to gamble with. Patrons are expected to repay these loans soon, typically within 30 days.
In most states, defaulting on a loan is just a civil offense. But Nevada makes it criminal fraud to default on casino markers (NRS 205.130).
In fact, the Clark County District Attorney's Office has an entire division devoted to unpaid casino marker prosecutions. It is called the Bad Check Unit.
What are the penalties for not paying a casino marker in Nevada?
If the marker is for less than $650, defaulting is a misdemeanor. The sentence includes:
- Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Otherwise, defaulting is a category D felony. The punishment includes:
- 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison,
- Restitution of the outstanding casino marker debt,
- Administrative fees (an extra 5% of each marker of $10,000 or less, and an extra 10% of each marker of more than $10,000), and
- $5,000 in fines (at the judge's discretion)
The D.A. prosecutes each unpaid casino marker as a separate charge.
In addition, the casinos can bring civil lawsuits against the defendant for the amounts owed.
Can the charges be dismissed?
The D.A. may agree to dismiss all charges if the defendant repays the markers in full. In some cases, they may allow monthly payments until the debt is paid. And in rare cases, prosecutors may settle for less than what is owed.
Can casino marker debt be discharged in bankruptcy?
No. But if the criminal charges get dropped, then the defendant may be able to discharge any remaining debt in bankruptcy.
How do I fight the charges?
A common defense in fraud cases is that the defendant had no intent to defraud. But this is difficult to prove in casino marker cases.
When a casino marker comes due, the casino will go to the debtor's bank to redeem the marker. If the debtor has insufficient funds, then Nevada law presumes that the debtor has intent to defraud. It does not matter what the debtor actually thought or meant to do.
Depending on the case, it still may be possible for a defense attorney to show that the defendant had no fraudulent intentions. Circumstances that may help include the following:
- The casino and a defendant had a long-standing relationship where the defendant always reimbursed the casino on time. The current situation is an anomaly;
- The defendant was seriously ill or was in the hospital, which is why he/she could not repay the markers on time;
- The casinos gave the defendant markers while he/she was drunk or high, so the defendant was not in his/her right mind when taking the loan; or
- At the time the defendant took out the markers, bank records show he/she did have sufficient funds
It is not a valid defense to argue that casino marker laws create a debtor's prison, or that markers are not really checks. The Nevada Supreme Court has already rejected these arguments.