It doesn’t matter whether or not one is a blackjack card counter, slots hustler/vulture or even a person as lowly as a buffalo-hunter, we all have one common fear: The Trespass.
I should point out that this article was inspired by this thread.
And, while the thread title may use the word, “Official,” I would be remiss not to mention that it is not an official WoV thread of any kind.
I actually thought I’d written about this before, but looking back it does not appear so.
Whatever the advantage play method one employs to make money in casinos, that method is rendered null (at least theoretically) once one has formally trespassed. What constitutes a “Formal,” trespass might vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with players who are not identified by name perhaps able to argue that they thought the ban was temporary. Generally, if the casino has your name and information and wishes you to be permanently gone, then you will be sent a letter to that effect.
That’s what happened to me at a Pennsylvania casino a few years ago. It shouldn’t be hard for anyone to figure out which one, but still, for the purposes of not getting myself in trouble or outing my actual name, I’m not going to mention the precise location. I would ask that anyone who knows me personally or knows of this incident respect my privacy on this one.
While I’m not going to get into details of the underlying play, I will say that the direct event that led to my being banned was picking up free play (with permission) on players club cards that were not in my name. The casino put the free play on there of their own accord and we did not do anything to game the free play system or the amount of free play that would be on the card. Everything was played according to what the casino allowed, with an exception only to the fact that we were using cards that were not in our names.
Anyway, the casino had me absolutely dead to rights. This was a play that I informed some of my Vegas friends of and they came out and were working it, so I was mostly helping them out in various ways. Obviously, I knew getting banned from the property was quite possible before we had even embarked on this play. I knew it was likely when someone working with us had already been 86’ed for possession of players cards not in his name. In fact, we even suspected that some of the cards had been flagged...but there was too much out there is $$$ free play to even really consider stopping. At least, at that time.
I say they had me dead to rights because they came up behind me and said, “Hey, Brandon,” after I had just finished running off the free play of a card not in my name. Even if they hadn’t seen me using the other card directly, (which I tend to think they did) there was still no way I could dispose of that card or the other ones in my possession.
The thing to understand about Pennsylvania casinos is that all of these sorts of things are turned over, at a certain point, to the Pennsylvania State Police, who have an office in or near the casino itself. Thus, it was not even the casino who detained me. Rather, it was the state police. Contrary to what sovereign citizens believe, the police do have a right to detain you for a time without charging you with anything.
Some of the stuff they said was correct and some of it was incorrect. It’s important for people to understand that the Fifth Amendment unilaterally protects people from self-incrimination, so while you may not want to lie to the cops, it’s fine to tell them nothing at all or limit what you tell them. The police then asked to search my wallet, which I allowed. Interestingly, they did some investigation that was completely unrelated to anything having to do with the casino.
The first thing was that I had a credit card in my possession (also with permission) that was not in my name. The credit card belonged to someone with whom I had ongoing business. Fortunately, this person answered the phone when they called this person and verified that, yes, I was supposed to be in possession of that credit card. They didn’t seem too concerned about anything else, although they did take all the cards from that casino away from me and gave me back everything else I had.
It should not come as a surprise that the police really had no idea what was going on. Even though they are located within the casino, the finer points of casino plays are really outside the spectrum of what they normally address. At one point, and concerning to me, the state police somehow seemed to think we had manipulated the cards to have free play that shouldn’t be there, (by computer?) even though we had done nothing of the sort. I explained that the casino themselves put the free play on the cards, not us, and the casino representative that was there verified that after going and talking to player services.
This is an example of how far removed the different departments are from one another at least one casino. The security supervisor knew absolutely nothing about how free play might find its way onto a players club card.
(This would be a good time to mention for any casino staff reading that I know I was a very naughty boy using other peoples’ player's cards like that and I double pinkie-promise to never, ever do anything like that again.)
Anyway, the security director eventually came back and confirmed that we hadn’t done any weird technical thing to put free play on cards that shouldn’t be there, so that was off the table. They asked me some other questions, and for the most part, I denied really knowing anything about it other than free play was on some cards and I was supposed to be picking it up.
Eventually, they let me leave. I couldn’t have been back there for longer than twenty minutes and I will say that all parties involved were very polite to me and spoke to me with respect. My only gripe with the state police guy was that he liked to interrupt me a couple times, but I calmly and respectfully told him that if he was going to keep interrupting me I was just going to quit answering questions completely.
Prior to leaving, they read the trespass act from the codes and explained to me the path that they would like me to take to exit to the casino and get back to my car. They explained that I would receive a notice in the mail memorializing same, but that I was not to come back to the casino and not to try to say that I didn’t get the letter as an excuse.
For some time, that was it. I had other advantage play related reasons to want to go back to that casino, which actually had nothing to do with players cards. I wouldn’t even have cared if they let me back in while refusing to issue me a players club card.
At some point, I called to challenge the ban and protest (read: lie) my relative innocence in the underlying matter that was the cause of trespass. I was told by the State Police that I was not trespassed from the casino at all by them, as far as they were concerned, or that would mean I was on the State Involuntary Exclusion List:
Anyway, you won’t find me on there. The State Police informed me that my issue was with the casino itself, so that’s who I needed to call.
I called and spoke to the Security Manager (job title intentionally changed, name intentionally omitted) who told me that if I would wait until I had been banned for a year and then call that she would think about it. I waited until I had been banned for a year and called again and she said it was fine as long as I got approval from the Manager of Marketing to come back. I left him a few voicemails over a period of a few months and he never responded. Similarly, he did not respond to any written correspondence. I’m pretty sure the lack of response was my answer.
The casino was later sold to a completely different company, the applicable Pennsylvania state law reads as follows.
(b) Defiant trespasser.--
(1) A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1)(v), an offense under this subsection constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree if the offender defies an order to leave personally communicated to him by the owner of the premises or other authorized person. An offense under paragraph (1)(v) constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. Otherwise it is a summary offense.
I may or may not have went into this casino several times after the change in ownership without being noticed, or it may have just been the one time and I got thrown out almost immediately. Either way, I was thrown out because I was recognized by the Security Supervisor who participated in getting me the first time. Guy has a hell of a memory, because I really don’t think I’m all that special looking. (I’m tall, but I wouldn’t think unusually so)
The two things that you have to look at are:
When the casino was sold from one company to another, and understand that this was an outright sale, (as opposed to a takeover or merger) the new owners never sent me any correspondence or gave me any indication whatsoever that I was to have trespassed.
Because they never gave me any indication, I had no way of knowing that I was not supposed to be there. Further, at no point did the owner of the property or any other authorized person communicate to me the order to leave the property. At the time they took me to the back room, I did, in fact, offer to leave and not return if that is what they wanted.
I also had two lesser arguments in my defense. The first one was that I was specifically told by a representative of the property (some random security guard who answered the phone) that I would be permitted to return under the new ownership. As is often the case with brick-and-mortar casino employees, he had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but he gave me the answer I wanted to hear so that’s the one I went with.
The final argument that I made in my defense, which admittedly is completely irrelevant, is that I have not trespassed at any other property owned by the new owners of the casino, so had no reason to assume that the new owners would not also want me at this casino. As I said, it’s really not as strong as my primary argument, but you might as well try it if your primary argument fails.
The problem with a Magistrate Court and an offense that would only lead to being fined is that they have every reason to want to give you a fine and no real incentive to find you innocent. Why would they? If you get fined, the State and the Township both make money, if you are not fined, then they get nothing. The way I see it, the deck is already stacked against you.
I would have actually considered a guilty plea, except the only thing that would change, is that I would have not had to pay the court costs, which weren’t very much, to begin with. The fine was substantially more than the court costs.
The reason that I didn’t go with a lawyer is that the fees would have cost more money than the fine itself cost. And, if the lawyer lost, I would have to pay both the lawyer and the fine. I seriously doubt I could have found any lawyers that would have taken this on a contingency fee basis.
Anyway, I decided the expected value was better to plead Not Guilty and to attempt to defend myself. While unlikely, I reasoned that it was possible that the Magistrate might actually care about what the law says. No such luck.
The Magistrate’s primary argument, because he was arguing with me directly as opposed to the State Police Representative...who basically never had to say anything, was that the name of the casino did not change when ownership did, and therefore, it was the same casino. I asked The Magistrate if I get banned from a McDonald’s, but someone new buys it and turns it into a Burger King, then I can go in, but if they buy it and keep it as a McDonald’s, then I cannot go in? He did not answer the question and threatened to hold me in contempt.
Anyway, I don’t think anybody in my life has ever talked to me as disrespectfully as that Magistrate did. Far from a fair proceeding, he was interrupting me at every turn, telling me that the code, “Doesn’t matter,” and just generally not letting me finish a sentence.
Exasperated, I finally asked if the previous owners of the casino could ban me from my own house if they wanted to, since they don’t own that either. Again, he threatened me with contempt and then exclaimed, “You’re guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! We’re done, and you’re guilty!” He legit said, “Guilty,” five times as his face turned funny colors.
Anyway, that’s how Magistrate Court is going to go, in general. Therefore, I was fined and remain banned from the casino in question. The good news is that I am not banned from other properties owned by that casino and I seriously doubt if anyone outside of the employees who work directly at that casino even knows I am banned there.
For those of you who may think that the casino does not have the right to bar you from the property, get barred and give it a try. Expect similar results. Remember, this is a case where the owners/representatives of the casino did not even ban me, but I still lost because the previous owners had...even though that should not be in anyway relevant.
Maybe you can appeal successfully if it happens, but even if you do, I can assure you that the entire process will not be worth the time you spend on it. There are more useful things you could be doing, namely, finding a different casino to play at.