With Nevada being a gambling Mecca, it is no surprise that local authorities crack down hard when someone is caught cheating at gambling in the casinos. Penalties may include years in prison as well as steep fines and restitution. However, an experienced Las Vegas criminal defense attorney could possibly get the charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
This article explains the Nevada crime of cheating at gaming. Scroll down to learn what constitutes cheating, how the charges may be fought, and what penalties courts impose.
It is illegal to cheat at a gambling game in any Nevada establishment that provides licensed gambling. The legal definition of “cheating” in Nevada is to “alter the elements of chance, method of selection, or criteria which determine:
(a) The result of a game;
(b) The amount or frequency of payment in a game;
(c) The value of a wagering instrument; or
(d) The value of a wagering credit.”
Therefore, cheating at gaming in Nevada is an extremely broad crime. Elko NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Jim, Jack, and Joel all go to the Mirage casino in Las Vegas. Jim puts counterfeit coins in a slot machine. John steals a card from the blackjack deck. And Joel switches out chips in poker. They all cheated in different ways. But if caught, they all would be prosecuted under NRS 465.083 in Nevada.
Note that cheating is prohibited in all venues that offer legal gambling, from high-profile casinos to supermarkets with slot machines near the front. Also note that anyone may be prosecuted for cheating at gambling, including the owner or employees of the gaming establishment.
Cheating at gaming is a different crime in Nevada from gambling fraud. However, they have many similarities and have the same penalties. Learn more about the Nevada crime of gaming fraud.
Attempts & Conspiracies
A defendant may be still be convicted of cheating at gaming even if he/she merely attempted to cheat or conspired to cheat. Therefore, it does not matter whether the accused actually carried out the cheating or whether he personally played the gambling game. Reno NV criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse explains:
John and Sam agree to cheat at blackjack in the Fiesta. John gives Sam money to gamble with, and Sam tries to insert stray cards into the deck. If caught, both Sam and John could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for conspiring to cheat even though John did not physically touch the blackjack table or try to insert the cards himself.
Learn more about Nevada conspiracy laws
Counting Cards in Blackjack
Counting cards in blackjack is when a player mentally keeps track of the cards that are dealt. Legally, it is not “cheating” and therefore not illegal. However, casino officials who suspect players of counting cards are within their rights to ban (or “blacklist”) those players from gambling in that casino or even entering the premises.
Detaining suspected cheaters in Nevada gaming establishments
A gaming establishment’s officers or employees have the legal authority to question anybody gambling there if they believe that person may have cheated. And if they have probable cause to believe that the suspect actually did cheat, they may detain them “in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time” until the police arrive. In Las Vegas, gambling cases are usually investigated by Las Vegas Metro’s Financial Crimes Unit.
Defense attorneys conduct thorough investigations to determine which strategies would prove most effective for a particular gaming cheating case. Below are three common ways an attorney may fight allegations of casino cheating in Nevada:
- No cheating occurred. It is possible that the entire situation was just a misunderstanding and that the defendant’s actions were completely within the bounds of the game. If a criminal defense attorney can show that nothing that occurred rose to the level of cheating, the case should be dropped.
- There is insufficient evidence. Prosecutors have the burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the court to hand down a conviction. As long as the defense attorney can demonstrate to the court that the state’s evidence is inadequate and too unreliable to sustain a “guilty” verdict, then the defendant should not be held liable for cheating while gambling. (Note that casinos typically have a surveillance camera above every gambling table to use as evidence should a player be prosecuted for cheating.)
- Police misconduct. If the police perform an illegal search or seizure when investigating a criminal case, the defense attorney may file a motion to suppress evidence in Nevada with the court. If the judge grants the motion and disregards all the evidence that was illegally obtained, the prosecution may have to drop the entire gambling cheating case for lack of proof.
A first-time violation of NRS 465.083 is a category C felony, carrying:
- one to five (1 -- 5) years in prison, and
- $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)
A second or subsequent conviction is a category B felony, carrying:
- one to six (1 -- 6) years in prison, and
- up to $10,000 in fines (at the judge’s discretion)
See our related articles on the Nevada crime of unpaid casino markers (NRS 205.130) and the Nevada crime of unlawful acts re. gaming equipment (NRS 465.085).
Also, see the Nevada Gaming Control Board for more information.