In Nevada, the Bad Check Unit of the Clark County District Attorney’s Office prosecutes casino patrons who sign and bounce casino markers. A casino marker, according to the Nevada Supreme Court case of Nguyen v. State, 116 Nev. 1171 (Nev. 2000), is a “check” for prosecution purposes under NRS 205.130 and NRS 205.132, Drawing and Passing a Check Without Sufficient Funds in Drawer Bank with Intent to Defraud, Presumptions of Intent to Defraud. So if you sign a casino marker which is deposited by the casino at your bank and your bank doesn’t honor it, the check is returned. A check can be returned if there are insufficient funds, if a stop payment order is made on the check, or if the account is closed when the payee casino attempts to deposit it.
Now that I’ve given you some background on casino markers, I’m going to tell you why I think that current prosecutions of casino markers violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Nevada Constitution. Article I, section 7, subdivision (b) of the Nevada Constitution states in part: “A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.” What this means is that the State of Nevada, generally speaking, can’t give your neighbor rights that it doesn’t give you. Additionally, Nevada’s equal protection clause states in article 4, section 21 of the Nevada Constitution, “In all cases enumerated in the preceding section, and in all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, all laws shall be general and of uniform operation throughout the State.”
One of the ways I am challenging the prosecution of casino markers is in the application of the existing law of NRS 205.130, referenced above, which I’m arguing violates the Equal Protection Clause. Let’s say that you loan your neighbor $50 cash and he gives you a check for $50 dated today but you will deposit in a week. You have, in effect, given your neighbor an extension of credit. You then take that check to the bank in a week as instructed and deposit it only to be told that your neighbor’s account has insufficient funds, or that your neighbor had already closed his account, or that he had put a stop payment order on the check.
Let’s change the facts just a bit. Let’s say that you own a dry cleaner and someone comes to pay you for clothes that you’ve cleaned. You take a check from the patron for $50 which is the cost of your services, and the check later bounces. If the patron gives you, let’s say, $7 as a partial payment and promises to the pay the rest but later doesn’t do so, you’re out $43.
Now imagine that you have this worthless check for $50 and you take it to the Bad Check Unit and ask them to prosecute. The first question they will ask you in the Bad Check Unit packet is, “Was this check that you received for an extension of credit?” If “yes”, then they will ask you, “Are you a casino licensed with the State of Nevada?” If the answer is “no”, then you are out of luck and the DA will not prosecute your neighbor for writing that bad check for $50 to you. But, if you were a licensed casino, you would have answered “yes” to the question of whether the amount is for an extension of credit and “yes” to being a licensed casino and the DA would prosecute on your behalf.
In our dry cleaner example, the dry cleaner who goes to the Bad Check Unit will be asked, “Have you accepted partial payment for your check?” If the answer is yes, then you are out of luck, unless you are a licensed casino. That’s right – the casino, just as in the case above, has more rights than you do and can still have the DA prosecute even though the casino has accepted partial payment after a casino marker it receives from a patron is bounced.
So how can this be? How can the DA tell you that they won’t prosecute your neighbor for extending credit to him but they will prosecute the patron who wrote the casino marker when the casino extended credit to him? How can the DA tell you they won’t prosecute your dry cleaning customer because you accepted a small partial payment, but the casino is allowed to accept partial payment and still go to get the rest of the money through the DA’s office? My argument is that it can’t because it’s a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The law doesn’t permit a corporate casino to have the right to do something that a Nevada taxpayer doesn’t have the right to do. Let’s look once again at article I, section 7, subdivision (b) of the Nevada Constitution: “A citizen (i.e.,you or a corporation because a corporation is a citizen) or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.” And let’s look again at Article 4, section 21 of the Nevada Constitution: “In all cases enumerated in the preceding section, and in all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, all laws shall be general and of uniform operation throughout the State.” The DA’s Bad Check Unit’s policies of favoring casinos in prosecutions for casino marker that bounce violates both these sections of the Nevada Constitution.
How is it that the casino corporation gets the privilege of having the DA’s office prosecute the patron, but you or I don’t get the same privilege extended to the casino if our neighbor writes us a bad check repaying us for a loan or if you or I accept partial payment? I don’t see how anyone can say that giving the casino corporation the privilege to throw a gambler in jail for not paying a marker doesn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause when you or I can’t do the same to our neighbor who stiffs us with the check I’ve mentioned above, or the dry cleaner can’t do the same to a customer who makes a partial payment and refuses to the balance?
This makes no sense. This is why I’m litigating this issue and moving to dismiss all cases against my clients who have casino markers. I’ll be arguing it in Clark County District Court at the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted.
If you have a casino marker that you’re concerned will be turned over for prosecution or has already been turned over for prosecution, call me at (702)966-5310 and let’s discuss. I am a lawyer with over 15 years of experience defending casino marker crime in Las Vegas.