MGM Grand confiscates $5,000 chip from Nolan Dalla

by Lou on March 14, 2007

Like so many others in Las Vegas, my good friend Nolan Dalla made the unfortunate mistake of assuming that casino chips liquid, just like cash. It turns out they’re not, and the lesson he’s learning might cost him $5,000.

Dalla, who’s the media director for the World Series of Poker and for Harrah’s WSOP circuit poker tournaments, received the $5,000 MGM Grand chip as payment for a gambling debt. When he tried to cash it at the MGM, it all went horribly wrong.

Asked how he had gotten he chip, Nolan told the employee in the cashier’s cage that the chip was received in payment of a debt. They person who gave Dalla the chip was phoned, but he told them that he received it from a someone else. Because he couldn’t prove that the chip had been obtained legally, it was confiscated by a cage supervisor and all Dalla had to show for his efforts and his chip is a receipt.

The sad truth of this fiasco is that chips are not currency, and today’s Las Vegas is not the good old days, when casino chips amounted to a parallel currency. Though chips still circulate as parallel currency throughout Las Vegas, they are not legal currency. The use of chips for any monetary purpose outside the casino is prohibited by law, and while chips are considered a stand-in for cash, it is only for gambling.

According to Dalla, “…it’s very scary for gamblers that the burden of proof is on us. It’s like the IRS. They think everyone’s a cheat.”

Despite the seizure of his $5,000 chip, there is some light at the end of Dalla’s dark tunnel. While the burden of proof is initially on the person trying to cash a chip to show how he obtained it legitimately, once a chip is seized and the customer complains to state regulators, the burden shifts and the casino must prove its case.

Still, it’s a sobering, somewhat frightening, and ultimately an ugly picture, and we’ll see how this one plays out in the months to come.

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