As all Nevada residents know that the state’s casinos want nothing more than to make gambling and losing money as easy as possible. So all casinos issue what is known in the gambling industry as a “marker.” A marker is a line of credit issued by a casino to a patron to finance their gambling activity in the casino.
This allows customers to get money quickly without carrying around large sums in cash. The casinos usually do not charge any interest on marker accounts. A customer must fill out a credit application to qualify for a casino line of credit. In Nevada, however, a casino marker is considered a check to be presented to the bank account of the patron who identifies their bank on their credit application.
This credit application also lists information as the patron’s net worth, cash on hand, investments, real estate, and income from employment. After performing a credit check, the casino applies a formula to determine the amount a player can borrow. The value of markers can range from a few thousand dollars to millions. Casino patrons can exchange the marker for the equivalent value in cash or gambling chips.
What Happens If I Do Not Repay a Marker?
As easy and as fun as this might seem, markers are debts that have to be repaid.
Failure to pay a casino marker within 30 days is a criminal offense in Nevada. The charge can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the balance of the marker.
A casino first tries to redeem the marker at the patron’s bank. If the marker is returned to the casino unpaid for insufficient funds, the casino then sends the patron a letter with a “notice of refusal of payment” giving the patron 10 additional days to pay back the debt.
If the marker is not repaid within the 10 additional days, then the casino files a complaint with the local district attorney. When the case is turned over to the local district attorney, the patron’s dealings will be with the district attorney exclusively.
When the district attorney first gets the case, it mails the patron another letter giving them 10 additional days to repair the marker plus the district attorney’s “processing fees,” which usually amount to about 10% of the value of the unpaid marker.
If the marker is still not repaid within the 10 days, the district attorney issues a warrant for the patron’s arrest. A person can be arrested at any time after a warrant is issued. An arrest often happens as a result of a traffic stop or when a person crosses the U.S. border while traveling. Or, law enforcement may come looking for the person at their home or place of employment.
If a person is out-of-state, they can be extradited back to Nevada to face the casino marker charges. The extradition process itself can take time and a person might be in jail for as long as a month before they are transported back to Nevada.
Casinos can seek prosecution for unpaid markers, bad checks submitted in payment of markers and criminal fraud. These crimes are all felonies in Nevada.
What is the Penalty for Unpaid Markers?
A marker is casino credit. The marker allows the casino to draw money owed to it from the patron’s bank account. But when a patron does not have enough money in their bank account to cover the debt, it is considered fraud under Nevada law. Fraud involves lying to a financial institution to obtain money or credit.
In states other than Nevada, failure to pay a casino marker may not be a crime. In Nevada, however, it is considered bank fraud to not repay a casino marker.
The penalties for unpaid markers depend on the amount of the marker taken out as follows:
- Less than $1200: Nonpayment of a marker of less than $1200 is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000. In addition, the perpetrator would be ordered to pay the debt as restitution;
- $1,200 or more: Nonpayment of a marker worth $1200 or more is a Nevada category D felony. The punishment includes 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison, a fine of up to $5,000, payment of the marker debt as restitution and payment of administrative fees. Administrative fees are 5% of each marker of $10,000 or less, and then an additional 10% of each marker worth more than $10,000.
The D.A. prosecutes each failure to pay a casino marker as a separate criminal offense. In addition, the casinos can bring civil lawsuits against the person to recover the amounts owed. If the casino were to be successful with a civil lawsuit, the casino would have all the tools for collection of a judgment available.
Each unpaid marker is a separate crime. So if a person has two unpaid markers even at the same casino, the failure to pay the two markers is considered to be two separate crimes and can be charged as separate crimes.
Can I Be Accused of Making False Statements to Obtain Markers?
Making false statements to obtain a benefit is a crime in Nevada. In the casino marker context, this would mean that a person is viewed as having lied about their ability to repay the marker debt, because they lacked the access to credit, cash or collateral to repay the debt when they incurred it.
So, the law assumes that the person knew they would not be able to pay the marker, even if that is not the case. On that basis, the law regards establishing a casino marker and then failing to pay it as a kind of check fraud.
How is Forgery Connected to Unpaid Casino Markers?
Forgery involves using counterfeit records with the intent to defraud a casino. In the case of an unpaid casino marker, the forgery might involve the patron’s representations about the amount of money a patron has in the bank or the amount of credit they have available. Again, it is a class D felony and punished as such as detailed above.
Can an Unpaid Marker Be Charged as Passing a Bad Check?
According to Nevada law, an unpaid marker is similar to passing a bad check. Passing a bad check involves a person willfully using a check knowing they have insufficient funds in their account to cover payment of it.
This is a class D felony in Nevada punishable by up to four years in prison, payment of a fine and restitution as noted above.
Can I Get the Charges Dismissed?
The district attorney might agree to dismiss all casino marker charges, if the patron repays the markers in full. The district attorney might even allow repayment of the marker in monthly installments until it is repaid in full. This would probably depend on the patron showing that this is the best they would be able to offer because of their financial circumstances.
A district attorney might even settle for payment of less than the full amount owed in rare cases. Again, this would probably depend on the patron proving that any other arrangement is beyond their means.
While criminal charges are pending, a person cannot discharge casino marker debt in bankruptcy. If, however, the criminal charges are dismissed, discharge of casino marker debt in bankruptcy becomes a possibility.
Should I Contact a Lawyer about My Unpaid Marker Charges?
If you have been charged with a crime in connection with your unpaid casino marker, you want to consult a Nevada criminal defense lawyer about how you can beat the charge.
You may have obtained a casino marker at a bad moment while you were in a casino in Nevada, but it can have some very damaging effects on your life. An experienced Nevada criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid a criminal conviction by paying the debt. You definitely want to try for this outcome if it is at all possible.