Updated July 1, 2020
Gaming fraud in Nevada casinos is very similar to “insider trading” on the stock market. Both involve using information that is not known to the public to try to turn a profit. And both are highly illegal carrying serious penalties including fines and prison.
This article summarizes the Nevada crime of gambling fraud. Keep reading to learn the law, punishments, and how a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges reduced or even dropped altogether.
The legal definition of “gambling fraud” in Nevada is extremely broad. But the crime largely refers to utilizing insider information to gain an advantage while gambling. Elko NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration:
Example: Jim goes to a blackjack table at the Green Valley Ranch casino, where he is friends with a casino host, John. John whispers to Jim that the deck is “hot,” and John places a large bet. If caught, both John and Jim could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for violating NRS 465.070 in Nevada.
So note that a person may be convicted of gambling fraud in Nevada even if he/she is not the one physically making a bet . . . merely helping somebody else commit fraud carries criminal liability as well.
Also note that it makes no difference if a person ends up losing money from relying on insider information. Simply the act of using insider information invites criminal prosecution irrespective of the outcome.
Manipulating Gaming Devices
It is also considered gambling fraud to manipulate a gaming device with the intent to cheat. Reno NV criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Example: Sam goes to the Harrah’s Reno casino and tampers with a slot machine handle. This gives police sufficient probable cause to believe Sam intends to cheat, so they book Sam at the Washoe County Detention Center for gaming fraud.
Note that it is immaterial that Sam has not tried to gamble with the slot machine yet. Just tampering with a gaming device gives authorities enough reason to effectuate an arrest.
Also note that gaming fraud is technically a separate crime in Nevada from cheating while gambling. However, they are very similar and carry the same penalties. Learn more about the Nevada crime of gaming cheating.
Detaining suspects in Nevada casinos
Employees of a casino or other gaming establishment can legally detain patrons they have probable cause to believe have engaged in gaming fraud. These cases may eventually be investigated by Las Vegas Metro’s Financial Crimes Unit.
When fighting allegations of gambling fraud in Nevada, defense attorneys draw on many possible strategies to weaken the prosecution’s case. The following are some of the more common defenses:
- Insufficient evidence. A defendant should not be convicted of gambling fraud unless the court finds him/her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So if the prosecution’s evidence contains too many inconsistencies or inadequacies, the defendant should not be held liable.
- No fraud. Perhaps law enforcement presumed the defendant was committing fraud when in reality he/she was just being a savvy or lucky gambler. As long as the criminal defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant’s actions fell outside the realm of fraud, the charges should be dropped.
- Illegal search. The police may have conducted an unlawful search when investigating gambling fraud. In this case, the defense attorney would file with the court a motion to motion to suppress evidence in Nevada asking the judge to disregard any evidence procured from the unconstitutional police actions. If the court complies, the D.A. may decide to throw out the whole case for want of proof.
Subsequent convictions are a category B felony in Nevada, carrying 1 -- 6 years prison and a maximum $10,000 in fines, plus restitution.
Unlawful dissemination of racing information (NRS 465.090)
Nevada has a specific fraud statute making it unlawful to spread insider information about racing with the intent to induce betting or wagering based on the information. it is also a category B felony in Nevada carrying:
- 1 -- 6 years in Nevada State Prison and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines, AND
- restitution in Nevada to the casino or gaming establishment
See our related articles on the Nevada crime of unpaid casino markers (NRS 205.130) and the Nevada crime of unlawful acts re. gaming devices (NRS 465.085).
Also go to the Nevada Gaming Control Board for more information.