What Really Happens When You Get Caught Cheating At A Casino

There's a famous old adage that says, "You can't beat the house," but that hasn't stopped countless people from trying to cheat gaming establishments. It raises the question: what happens if you get caught cheating at a casino? With 40 million yearly visitors flocking to Las Vegas, it makes sense that at least a handful of those folks arrive in town with the intention of cheating the house.

Over the years, the ways casinos handle cheaters have evolved from the downright brutal—true vigilante justice—to the more or less humane. But gaming establishments are wise to the ever-growing list of cheating options out there, and they monitor players carefully. If you've wondered what to do if a casino catches you cheating, much of what happens depends on the policies of the individual casino, as well as the laws of the state you're in. You probably won't get beat up like you see in the movies, but the consequences are pretty serious nonetheless.

  • Your Winnings Could Be Seized

    Your Winnings Could Be Seized
    Photo: VegasCasinoKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    One potential consequence of cheating at a casino is a seizure of your ill-gotten winnings. In fact, it's perfectly legal for a casino to confiscate your earnings if they suspect you won by cheating. But some gamblers in Vegas have said that casinos abuse the legality of this practice. "The casinos do not like people who win," one gambler said. "They like people who lose. They are just using this regulation as an excuse to cheat me."

  • You Could Be Detained

    If a casino suspects that you're cheating, the first thing they'll likely do is detain you. "You can be questioned and detained in a Las Vegas casino if security believes you are cheating," a Vegas lawyer explains, "and the casino and the security guards cannot be held criminally or civilly liable in most cases." Under Nevada gaming law, any casino worker—not just casino bosses or security personnel—has the right to question a player they suspect of cheating. The suspicion alone is enough to warrant detention and interrogation. The same laws give casinos the right to detain suspected cheaters, so long as there is probable cause and the length and conditions of the detention are not unreasonable.

  • You Could Be Blacklisted From The Casino

    Another possible penalty for getting caught cheating is blacklisting. A casino will record your name and information in a book that essentially bars you from entering the gaming premises ever again. The "black books" casinos utilize for this purpose come in one of two forms: one is a record that is shared with the local gaming commission, making the blacklisting official. The other is the Griffin Book, which shares the blacklisted individual's information with other casinos in the area.

  • Cheating In A Casino Is A Felony In Nevada

    Cheating In A Casino Is A Felony In Nevada
    Photo: David_Vasquez / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    If you get caught cheating in a Nevada casino, you could be charged with a felony. Those convicted may receive anywhere from one to six years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. They will also have to pay restitution to the casino. In Nevada, once a casino has detained and questioned an alleged cheater and found evidence of wrongdoing, they hand the case over to police. Financial crimes units typically take on casino cheating cases.

  • Card Counting Is Actually Legal

    Card Counting Is Actually Legal
    Photo: Essie / Wikimedia Commons / GFDL

    Though it may not exactly be ethical, card counting, one of the most popular types of casino cheating, is not technically illegal. Most who engage in the practice consider it "using your brain"—to them, it's nothing more than a smart gameplay skill. After all, counting cards involves no overt trickery, no special tools like marked cards, and no reinterpretation of the rules of the game. "There are many professional card counters on our blackjack forum, none of whom break the law," writes one expert who heads an online blackjack community. "There are dozens of card counting books that explain how." That said, casinos don't like when players engage in the practice.

  • Despite What You See In Movies, Casino Bosses Don't Beat Up Cheaters

    Despite What You See In Movies, Casino Bosses Don't Beat Up Cheaters
    Video: YouTube

    If movies and television are to be believed, anyone caught cheating in a casino is rounded up by company thugs and beaten to a pulp in some shady backroom. But this is just Hollywood's creative license at work. In reality, casinos tend to go out of their way to keep cheating—and the apprehension of suspected cheaters—as hush-hush as possible. Why? According to author Dr. John Oakes it's "because casinos are just like popular girls in high school: [they're] completely obsessed with their reputation." So it all comes down to PR. If you're caught cheating, the casino certainly won't like it, but possible damage to the establishment's reputation will prevent them from inflicting the kind of violence you see in movies and on TV.