Follow-up on the Nolan Dalla Chip Confiscation Story

by Lou on March 21, 2007

Here’s an update on the Nolan Dalla story. For those of you unfamiliar with it, please go to my blog entry for Tuesday, March 13, 2007, entitled, MGM Grand confiscates $5,000 chip from Nolan Dalla.

The entry on March 13 was my words. The italicized material is all Nolan’s.

On Monday afternoon, I went down to the Nevada Gaming Board and spoke with an Enforcement Agent. From our conversation, it looks like I am in serious danger of losing my money. Federal and state laws both declare that chips are “casino property.” Casinos have an obligation only to the player who played with the chip, and no one else.

Never mind that there are 70-year old traditions dealing with the exchange of casino chips and public misconceptions (myself included) that the chips are legal tender in Las Vegas. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have told the truth about this chip and its source to everyone who has asked me about it. I have also produced valid ID and followed every law with regard to exchanging the chip for cash. That does not seem to matter to MGM.

The reason why I am fighting this case has everything to do with player/gambler/consumer rights versus the powers of corporate casinos. Here is yet another example of the decay, if not extinction, of those rights.

Several persons contacted me and asked why I did not — (a) ….break the casino into smaller denominations prior to approaching the window (b) ….use what contacts I have within gaming to get the chip cashed (c) ….refuse to turn over the chip (d) ….lie at the cage and say I got the chips from a gaming table.

My answer is — sure, I could have done a number of things differently that may have increased my chances of successfully cashing the chip. However, I have done nothing wrong here and am determined to make this a test case which illustrates how far some casinos can (and do) go to screw over the public and gamblers.

This is an important precedent that needs to be understood by everyone, not to ever accept any chips as an exchange or payment. Also, be wary of cashing any and all large denomination chips. If I were anyone out there reading this, I would NEVER take any chip larger than $100 from any source — and that includes activities within the casino. If you are asked why you will not accept a “color up,” cite this case.

I have never had any problem cashing chips of this denomination at the Bellagio, LV Hilton, or the Horseshoe (pre-2003). I assume that non-MGM casinos would not have treated me like a criminal, since I have never encountered a problem anywhere else before. This is an issue which is entirely the doing of the MGM.

As for my actions and what I recommend, here are my statements:

(1) I will continue to fight this publicly and will do everything in my power to tarnish the name and reputation of the MGM Las Vegas.
(2) I do not ask for nor encourage a public boycott. Everyone is free to take what information I provide about this case and make up his or her own decisions about his own consumer activities.
(3) I may take legal action. In the meantime, my role will be to educate my friends and fellow gamblers about how far some casinos will go in their dealings with you.

I’ll keep you up to date on this story as it develops. While there is law that states that chips are not a parallel currency, there is an overriding tradition in which gamblers in Las Vegas have traditionally settled wagers with casino chips, and the casinos have a long-established past practice of accepting chips in the vast majority of circumstances without checking to make sure that the person cashing them is the person who purchased the chips to gamble with in the first place.

Something smells here. And I think it’s the huge disconnect between what the law says and the traditional way things have always been done. If the MGM wants to adhere to the letter of the law, and back away from past practices, I think some signs around the casino cage notifiying gamblers of a change in policy and a date on which the change takes place would have beent he way to do it.

To just wake up and decide to do things differently one day is capricious management at best, and Nolan Dalla shouldn’t have to lose $5,000 to help effect a policy and procedure change at one casino.

It’s just not right.

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