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HOME > > Ask the Slot Expert: Banned for complaining?

Ask the Slot Expert: Banned for complaining?

13 September 2023

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: First, I would like to say thank you for this column. It has provided much interesting, informative reading.

My subject is a sad one. I was banned from the casino closest to my home (150 miles each way}, along with all of their properties. I will say that it is the tightest place I'v ever been to, besides one Indian property in Northern CA. But I was a loyal customer for many years and have a lot of good memories there.

I will tell you that it breaks my heart that this happened. I had been having a tough time there, and lost quite a bit of money for me. Over the last 5 years it added up to over $50,000, not counting all the wins that I gave back.

I wrote an email to my host complaining about it, in a very polite, politically correct, way. I did not swear, or make threats, or tell them I would steer anyone away. Many folks that played there were complaining about how tight they were and I was not alone with these feelings.

The host told me that, because of the words I used, he was banning me. Literally the only thing I could see that may have made him feel this way was that I felt that it was unbearable to me that I had lost this much. Basically, it seemed like I was complaining. But I guess that is a deadly thing to do.

A little over a year passed, and I wrote to them apologizing for complaining and making them feel uncomfortable. They won't respond. I've made a call and left a message, and wrote two letters. It seems there is nothing I can do and I really feel bad, and am sad they did this. My host had commented once about how loyal I was through the pandemic.

I want to get over it, but I'm really mad that they did this, and I don't understand why. Except that I complained, and that was a big no no.

So, everyone out there, don't complain or you may get 86ed out the door.

I live in a state that does not allow gambling, except the lottery. This facility is literally on the state line. It's not Utah, but close. So, they get a lot of traffic.

I don't blame anyone but myself for losing my money, but was it necessary for them to rub my face in it?

Thanks for letting me vent, not that it helped the situation.

Answer: Thanks for the kind words about my column.

Letters about situations like yours are always a bit of a conundrum for me. First, I wonder if they're for real. And second, I wonder if the writer is giving an accurate account of the incident. What's the other side of the story?

The general category for situations like yours is: Actions That Wouldn't Raise an Eyebrow in Vegas But Got Me Banned in Fill-In-The-Blank.

The most common action that has a double standard is playing/taking abandoned credits/tickets. Some players write that they were banned or treated like felons for small amounts of money.

Contrast that treatment with what I and others have experienced in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. A slot attendant once told me about a machine that had some credits left on it.

The player playing the video poker machine next to me left $60 in credits on the machine. I waited a few minutes for him to return. When he didn't, I cashed him out. I turned in the ticket at the cage, explaining that someone left this money on a machine.

The look on the cashier's face said, "So what do you want me to do about it?" She asked me if I wanted her to cash the ticket. I told her it wasn't my money. Someone may come back for it. It seemed like she couldn't believe that someone would turn in money that another player left behind.

The video poker machine I wanted to play (one of the few that didn't have glare) had a ticket jam error. I don't know why a slot attendant hadn't fixed it yet. I hit the Service button and asked the attendant who came if he could clear the error.

He opened the machine and rethreaded the ticket stock. When he closed the cover, the machine printed the ticket. He turned around and started to walk away while the ticket was printing. I called after him, "This isn't my money." He kept on walking. Well, the ticket was under a dollar.

How about an incident closer to yours? Long time ago, casino in downtown Las Vegas. I heard my name being paged on the PA system in the casino. That had never happened before -- or since.

I picked up a courtesy phone. It's an acquaintance who, I thought, was playing a machine somewhere else in the casino. But no. He was no longer in that casino. He was back at the Golden Nugget, where we had parked.

He was having a run of bad luck and expressed his frustration by punching the top glass on a machine. He punched the glass hard enough to break it.

A couple of slot attendants came running. Did they get security to escort him out of the casino? Did they ban him from the casino?

No, they just made sure that he didn't hurt his hand. When he apologized for breaking the glass, they said that it happens all the time. (I'm skeptical that it happens "all the time." I suspect they were de-escalating.)

I can't imagine a glass-breaker getting similar treatment from a casino that would ban people for playing a couple of bucks they found on a machine.

The incidents like yours that people have written to me about have occurred in -- oh, let's call them -- fourth generation gaming jurisdictions. If Nevada is first generation, Atlantic City second, Mississippi third, then all of the other jurisdictions are fourth. Atlantic City's regulations are modeled after Nevada's, Mississippi's after both Atlantic City's and Nevada's, and all the others are modeled after those that have come before -- perhaps with some local wrinkles thrown in. Just as your grandparents let you get away with things that your parent's don't, the older jurisdictions seem more relaxed than the newer ones.

Legislators may want to avoid creating Vegas Strip-like sections in their states. What they end up doing, however, is creating multiple monopolies with no competition when they spread out the casinos in their states.

Your having to travel to get to the nearest casino reminds me of the lottery situation in Nevada. Nevada has no lottery -- yet -- so every time the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot gets high, Nevadans rush to the lottery retailers right over the state line to get their tickets. It's too bad there isn't another casino close to and competing with the casino that banned you.

There's really nothing good that can come from complaining about tight machines. The people you can complain to (slot attendants, cashiers, hosts) can't do anything about it.

Long-term payback, moreover, takes many hundreds of thousands of plays to prove out. You can lose money playing positive-expectation video poker machines. Players do not play anywhere near enough to distinguish between long-term payback and luck.

When I've been in a run of bad luck and have had to hit the cage to take out another marker, I've tried to think of an amusing reply to the cashier's good luck wishes. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining or blaming the cashiers for something they have no control over.

The best reply I've come up with is "Thank you." Or, only if it's a cashier who knows me, "It's been rough. That's why I'm back. But fingers crossed."

It seems to me that the proper response to your letter would have been the same as what the glass-breaker above was told -- happens all the time. There's really nothing the host can say in reply, but he could have offered you an additional meal comp.

You didn't send a copy of your letter, so I'm left wondering whether something you wrote could be misinterpreted, like "unbearable to me that I had lost this much." That sounds like you were asking for a self-ban.

Put yourself in the casino's position. It has an obligation to protect problem gamblers. A player writes a letter that it is "unbearable to me that I had lost this much." It sounds like a player is saying she loses more than she can afford and the casino has to ban her to protect her. It could have told you as much, though.

If they interpreted you letter such that a ban was appropriate to protect you, you can write back and explain that you were just reacting to a run of bad luck and you can afford your losses (assuming you can).

If the ban was to protect the casino, then my only advice is that time heals all wounds. If you really want to go back to that casino, wait another year or so and write again. You can periodically visit www.vpfree2.com to check if the host that banned you is still at the casino. You may have to wait until he moves on.

If you would like to see more non-smoking areas on slot floors in Las Vegas, please sign my petition on change.org.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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