Search and Seizure laws in nevada circa 1960

This question stems from an extremely bad History Channel special about the history of card counting. (I know I should know better than to watch the history channel, but I thought it was going to be about the Breaking the Bank guys.)

Oh, as means of a disclaimer, I’m not looking for legal advice: this is an academic question about a historical event.

Anyway, the first part of the show revolved around early card-counting techniques, and focused specifically on a father and son pair who developed a (very) rudimentary portable card-counting computer in the early 60s. By their own account, the Las Vegas casinos first figured out what was going on when they caught the father: apparently he was intercepted by security in a casino, taken to a back room, strip-searched, and held until the police arrived to formally arrest him. He says that the FBI were called in when the police couldn’t figure out what the portable computer was supposed to do and, as they were unable to figure out precisely what it was for, they were forced to release him without charge.

Now I realize that casino owners and related interest groups could, and probably did, have a number of “understandings” with police and lawmakers both. However, if we were to look at the letter of the law, I’m wondering:

a) Did the guy with the portable computer actually break any laws? I don’t know if card counting or related offenses were covered under any civil or criminal law at the time.

b) Assuming that he did break one or more laws, would police be within their right to strip search him? His computer was bulky but extremely well concealed, such that he would’ve looked like a normal guy who was just having an extremely abnormal winning streak.

c) Since it was apparently casino security, and not police who searched him and confiscated his computer, would the computer be inadmissible as evidence if someone had decided to press charges? I’m assuming the computer itself was discovered as part of an illegal search by security, and the illegal search is what enabled the officers to see it when they arrived, but the arresting officers themselves didn’t violate any laws or procedures. (I guess this question boils down to the exact conditions under which evidence would be admissible in the early 1960s.)

d) Later on in the documentary, the guy said that the FBI never returned his computer. If this is true, did they have a legal right to keep it?

The casinos have the right to refuse to admit anybody into their casinos. Their security forces have wide-ranging powers to exploit. AFAIK, the answer to “A” is No. It still isn’t against the law to caount cards. The casino will just boot you if they catch you doing it. There are laws against using “foreign devices” in a casino, however. As for “B,” once the police place you under arrest, they can search every inch of you, inside and out. “C” - see “A.” As for “D,” try getting anything back from the Feds once it’s been confiscated. Next to impossible, no matter what it was. This is one of the great abuses of the system, and it has ever been such.

IANAL and I can’t give you a cite, but the answer is almost certainly that no, it would not be inadmissible. Private actors are not bound by the 4th amendment. In many states today, they can make a citizen’s arrest and search you without following the 4th–they may be liable for other torts, the evidence they find won’t be suppressed.

Mapp v. Ohio, the case that made the exclusionary rule mandatory in state courts, wasn’t until 1961. So in 1960, Nevada was free to follow whatever rule they liked which was almost certainly not more strict than the current rule which would not suppress the search.