Does a casino have to cash your chips?

Let’s say you went to Vegas and had a better day than the house would prefer. You weren’t cheating, counting, or even accused of anything, but you’re still going to walk to the cashier with more in chips than you bought. Does the casino have to let you walk out the door with more money than you came in with?

That would be covered by the gaming laws of the states that allow gambling.

I don’t know about the US, but my (limited) understanding of UK law is that no gambling “contracts” are enforceable in law. In other words, if you place a winning bet in a casino, the casino is not legally obliged to give you the chips. The reverse is also true, of course, which is why all organised gambling requires the stake up front. The reason that no casino or bookmaker would ever renege on their promise to pay out on winning bets is that they would go out of business fairly quickly - word would soon get around and gamblers would desert the place.

The interesting scenario is what would happen if I bet, say, £500 on red on the roulette table. I see the ball land on a black number, so before the croupier can rake the losing bets, I grab the chips from the table and make a break for the exit. If I didn’t reach freedom, I suspect that security may try to rough me up (verbally or otherwise) to get the money back, but I believe that legally they cannot do anything. Of course, such behaviour would immediately get me banned from not just that casino but probably all casinos in the country. And in that scenario, I guess they could refuse to change the chips back. Then all I would have to do is get a friend to change them for me another time (assuming I manage to leave the building with my face, and the chips, intact).

That’s not so in the UK any longer.

The Gambling Act of 2005 contains a clause which states, “the fact that a contract relates to gambling shall not affect its enforcement.”


Good stuff, thanks. So I was only 3 years out of date! And in my hypothetical scenario below, if I managed to escape the casino with the chips from a losing bet, I could technically be prosecuted (for theft? Breach of contract?).

My law-geek-ness got the better of me, and I looked up some Nevada Gaming Commission regulations. Section 12.060 of Chapter 12 of those regulations provides that:

So at Nevada casinos, the answer appears to be “yes.” (At least in general; there are probably some exceptions somewhere)

Aside from individual states’ or countries’ laws regarding gaming, it’s pretty well established in the implied contract of going to a casino and playing: if you lose, you pay - if you win, they pay.

Beyond that, any legitimate casino that refused to pay a winner would rapidly be known as a casino to avoid.

I’ve heard that casinos in Vegas will even exchange another casino’s chips, and allow you to play them at their tables. Any truth to this?

Since we’re on the topic, according to Oceans 11, Nevada casinos have to have cash on hand to cover all chips in play. Is this true? Does the provision allowing checks to be issued change things?

In some limited circumstances, yes. Rather than play them at the table, though, they’d exchange them.

They’ll do this at the bigger casinos for other big casinos’ chips of significant value. If you bring an Imperial Palace $5 chip somewhere, they aren’t going to honor it. But if you show up at Bellagio and say, “I’ve got all these yellow(*) Wynn chips. Will you take them?” you can bet they will with a smile.

(*) $1000

I don’t know the Nevada law, but I recently read most of the California gaming laws. In California casinos, the gaming licensee must have proof of a separate account with funds sufficient to cover all chips in play at any time. I’d be surprised if Nevada rules were much different.

I think the cash described by the Ocean’s 11 reference means physical cash held on site as opposed to a liquid account which covers the chip value. Otherwise the premise of the movie goes right out the window if all the cash is in some bank account elsewhere.

According to IMDb’s Goofs page, absolutely not.

For what it’s worth, I saw security footage of someone attempting to do this. Security had been alerted; when the man turned to run, the guard went to one knee and delivered an uppercut to the man’s groin with such force that his feet left the ground briefly.:eek: Best not to test this idea in the real world.

I believe a cite is needed for this. :smiley:

What happens next?

In this scenario Bellagio now has a $1000 Wynn chip; if this happens with any regularity then each may have a modest pile of the other’s funny money. Do they have some kind of agreement by which chips are periodically exchanged and any difference in value settled, or does a Bellagio employee need to head over to the Wynn in plain clothes to cash it out at the cage?

Just a WAG, but I would bet that if you handed a pile of another casino’s chips at the till, then they would surely find a minimum wage flunkly to haul ass over to the original casino to cash in the chips.

Thousands of dollars in wagers v. one hour at minimum wage?

Not a dilemma for me if I owned the casino…

Yea, I’ll WAG on my part, but what intelligent casino owner wouldn’t want an agreement that they will honor each others chips. After all, the profit is to be made in keeping the sucker gambling, not worrying about what currency they are gambling in. I’m glad I have the other guys customer. When they start switching casinos to change their luck, that’s a good thing. They are still gambling, not tucking tail and leaving.

Yeah. In Las Vegas, chips are like Disney Dollars.

Regulations of the Nevada Gaming Commission and State Gaming Control Board, Regulation 6 (Accounting), §150 (3):

The specific bankroll requirement varies from operator to operator (couple slot machines in a bar = high, big casino = low) but is always less than 100%.