I would normally just put something like this in an edition of, “News & Notes,” but I think that it deserves its own article complete with commentary. There was very recently a couple, Christopher Ray Kinney and Gina Renee Kinney who were accused of swiping a slot ticket of over $1,000 at Beau Rivage Casino and Resort in Biloxi, MS as reported by the Sun Herald.
According to the news report, Beau Rivage security staff (presumably notified by the aggrieved casino patron) reported a stolen slot ticket of over $1,000 to police on Monday, May 1st. The paper later reported, on Friday, that the couple had turned themselves in.
It is possible that the couple will face Grand Larceny charges which, in the State of Mississippi, is a felony coming about by way of the stealing of money or property with a value in excess of $500. The result is a potential prison sentence of up to ten years in prison and fines of up to $10,000, or both, as well as the possibility for civil sanctions.
The State of Mississippi also has a Petit Larceny charge for the theft of any property or money with a value of under $500. Hardly a slap on the wrist, the fines for Petit Larceny can be up to $1,000 with the potential of up to six months in county jail, or both.
Unlike some other states, which have a charge known as, ‘Petty Theft,’ which often addresses smaller amounts, the charge of Petit Larceny (a Misdemeanor) appears to be the lowest possible charge for a theft of any amount in the State of Mississippi.
Despite having turned themselves in, the couple has been arrested and it has not yet been reported what any bail or bond may be set at. Given that they turned themselves in on Friday, such bail or bond may not be known until Monday.
The Sun Herald either did not reveal or was unaware of the particulars of the case, most notably, how long the slot machine was unattended prior to the grabbing of the ticket. While the sheer amount of the ticket is not consistent with what one would expect for an abandoned slot ticket, is it possible that the couple will advance the argument that they believed the ticket to be abandoned?
Wanting more information, I first spoke with a couple of different individuals in security for Beau Rivage who both suggested I should call back on Monday after 9:00a.m., which I will do and follow up in the comments. I also attempted a phone call to the criminal investigations unit of the police department, but was told, once again, that I would do well to call after 9:00a.m. on Monday. Hopefully, I will be able to uncover some more details of the case at that time.
Regardless of the backstory surrounding the grab and go of what may well have started as an innocent trip to the casino followed by an opportunistic moment of weakness, one thing that we might assume is that the couple might not have done this if they knew they were looking at the potential for a felony. It is also unknown whether or not security became aware of the theft while the couple was still in the casino or whether any attempt was made to detain them or make contact with them after they had left.
The problem with moral guidelines is that moral guidelines and legal guidelines do not always match, and it is for that reason people should know the law when it comes to something like this. Granted, I would personally never even remotely consider pilfering a $1,000 slot ticket because there can be almost no argument that the ticket was abandoned. I don’t care how much money the player may have, I can’t think of anybody who is going to abandon a thousand bucks.
What seems more likely the case is that the person who was playing decided to share news of their win with a friend with whom they were at the casino and didn’t decide to cash out the ticket first. This obviously did not involve a hand pay of any kind, so no identification was needed to cash the ticket out and it may have been done at a cashout machine rather than the cage.
Whatever the amount in question, if you do legitimately consider the ticket to be abandoned, it is important to realize that taking the ticket may amount to stealing in the eyes of the law, even if you sit there and wait for a substantial amount of time prior to taking it. Furthermore, it may still be considered theft for you to simply add your own ticket to it and start playing, although, it does at least appear (given the Hard Rock case in Florida) that whoever hits the button is entitled to the jackpot and the jackpot would belong to you regardless of whose money it arguably is.
The point of the matter is that the taking of a ticket that you consider to be abandoned might not be worth the risk at all if there is a non-zero amount of risk, and is especially not worth the risk if the result is going to be potentially facing a felony charge. As we see from the news report, the couple turned themselves in and was still arrested, so I am going to be following this case with some serious interest.
For those of you who are inclined to take a slot ticket that you believe may be abandoned, one piece of advice that I would give is to determine whether or not there is a, ‘Finders-Keepers,’ clause in the jurisdiction in question. There are a few states, and Pennsylvania is one of them, in which found money (in a casino or otherwise) must be turned into law enforcement regardless of the amount or it is considered theft. For that reason, you will often see players in Pennsylvania casinos cash out slot tickets that are worth just a few cents and placing them on top of the machines prior to putting money in.
When it comes to amounts greater than just a few cents, I would definitely consider it not worth the risk if it would constitute Grand Larceny, or Felony Theft, whatever a state’s term for it may be. In fact, I wouldn’t consider it worthy if the taking of the ticket could even potentially result in jail time. Even then, it’s always been my personal position that I want to be absolutely sure the ticket is abandoned, so I tend to give it about a half hour if it is a worthy enough amount and I am at the casino that long anyway. It has always been my position that, in any casino located in a state in which the state allows the casino to keep any percentage of the abandoned money, if it is stealing, then the casino is being allowed to steal, too. Better I have the money than the casino.
Therefore, prior to the taking of any ticket, I would familiarize myself with state law and determine if there is any risk of jail time as a result. Once again, the State of Mississippi seems to make no distinction for different amounts under $500, it all constitutes Petit Larceny. Could they consider an amount like $15 Petit Larceny? It would appear so. I’m sure as Hell not going to do three and a half minutes in jail over fifteen bucks, let alone six months.
In a way, I do hope that the case gets advanced that they believed that they were taking an abandoned ticket just so, whether that argument is believed or not, we might see some professional legal opinion as to the exact time that a ticket becomes, ‘Abandoned.’ Granted, any such judicial ruling that might come about as a result of this case would only be applicable in the State of Mississippi, but it would still be interesting to know the laws behind that.
Another part of the story that appears to be known, that might be something of a mitigating factor (but not in favor of the couple) is that they apparently did not put any money or ticket of their own into the machine. Had they done that, it would still be a pretty simple matter to figure out the amount of money that was on the machine prior to their ticket going in, but at least they might play for a bit and have some kind of deniability.
When it comes to blatant theft, as is almost certainly the case here, it’s simply not a smart thing to do. If someone is going to do it, though, they would be well-advised to give themselves a few outs. Had they put in some of their own money (or their own ticket, if they had one) and played the machine for a bit, then they could play innocent and just say they believed they must have won on a spin and decided to cash out. While that may or may not be believable, I would say that it would be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are lying.
Apparently, this is just a good old fashioned slot ticket grab and go that doubtlessly occurs at least once in most casinos across the country, granted, just for much smaller amounts. These smaller amounts often tend to be a mitigating factor from the casino’s point of view as the casino will often simply warn patrons who are behaving in that way, or alternatively, ask them to leave.
The way this story sounds, it is just dripping with criminal intent. The only mitigating factor may be the fact that they turned themselves in. However, it seems like they grabbed the ticket, cashed it out and straight up hauled ass out of there. Had they remained in the casino for some length of time, and had the person to whom the ticket belonged contacted security and security located the couple in the casino (who might then give the ticket back uncashed) they might not find themselves in this sort of mess. The cops might even get called if something like that were to happen, but it’s even possible then that the person to whom the ticket belonged would not want charges to be pressed upon the ticket being returned.
There are so many possibilities that could have led up to this event, so I am hoping to get in touch with someone who can offer some more specifics, whether it be the casino, the police department, or one of the reporters who may simply not have included the pieces of information that are of interest to me. If I do get to talk to someone in the police department, I also intend to ask whether, in their eyes, the couple remaining on the property and returning the ticket, if asked, would have been a mitigating factor.
Either way, after reconsidering the issue as a result of this story, I think my new personal policy will be just to always leave abandoned tickets alone.