Nickle and Dimed: Lawsuits Allege US Retail Casino Gamblers Shortchanged

Claiming they were deprived of exact change from their slots cashouts, a class of US retail casino patrons filed at least two lawsuits recently. They allege they were shortchanged by the cash-out systems on electronic gaming systems.

On Sept. 21, plaintiff Leane Scherer filed the first lawsuit in the Southern District of Mississippi against Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International.

The second case was filed two days later in the Western District of Louisiana by Mike Young against Caesars Entertainment Inc., also headquartered in Vegas.

Both lawsuits allege that millions in damages could be at issue in the case.

Regarding the potential classes of US retail casino plaintiffs, the Mississippi-based suit allegedly involves:

… all visitors to a casino owned or operated by defendant between September 19, 2012, and present who were deprived of their change by Defendant.

The Louisiana-based suit includes a similar timeline, except instead of a class of people beginning on Sept. 19, 2012, it specifies only those who wagered from Sept. 23, 2012, to present day would be members of the potential class.

What Do These US Retail Casino Patrons Want?

At the heart of these lawsuits is the allegation that when casino slot machines printed vouchers that could be redeemed for cash, gamblers were shortchanged when the properties rounded the amount won down to the nearest dollar. That win could be redeemed at a kiosk.

While it seems gamblers could redeem the change from the cage via a separate voucher, the complaint alleges this was not sufficiently detailed to patrons.

At the base of these complaints is an allegation that the defendant US retail casinos have been imposing a “tax” on patrons through their cash-out systems. According to the plaintiffs (both lawsuits are nearly identical), the problem arises when a player decides to stop playing a real money slot machine but still has remaining credits.

Historically, when a player wanted to cash out from a machine, the machine would dispense coins to the player. In many contemporary machines, a voucher is printed, which displays a credited amount.

Before, according to the complaints, when a patron took the voucher to a kiosk to cash out, the gambler would receive exact change.

However, times have changed.

Do US Retail Casinos Have Too Much Technology?

The Louisiana-based plaintiff alleges that when a player puts a voucher into contemporary kiosks at the casino properties named in the complaints, the amount paid is rounded down to the nearest whole dollar. There were allegedly no further instructions to players beyond a statement on the receipt stating “Transaction Completed Successfully.”

In the case of the Mississippi-based complaint, it notes the COVID-19 pandemic-related coin shortages. The lawsuit says many businesses notified consumers of the inability to give out coins. The complaint cites a kiosk at the Wynn Las Vegas that informed customers that the kiosk only dispenses cash, but a voucher for change could be redeemed with a cashier. The plaintiff cited that as an example of what US retail casinos should be doing.

The Mississippi-based complaint notes, however:

the casinos fail to put an average player on reasonable notice that the TRU Ticket [the kiosk voucher for change] can only be converted into cash at the Cage (emphasis in original).

What Are the Legal Claims?

Each complaint makes two substantive claims and raises alternative causes of action, as well.

The first claim is that the casinos breached their contract with the plaintiffs. The crux of the alleged contract is that players wagered on a game of chance with the understanding that at the end of their time playing, they would be able to turn in any unused credits for cash. It is alleged that by keeping a player’s change, the casinos have breached their contract with players.

The second claim alleged in the complaints is conversion. Conversion is an intentional tort where someone takes property from another with the intent to deprive that party of its use. Both complaints make similar allegations, with the Louisiana-based complaint arguing:

By depriving Plaintiff and Class Members of a way to exchange their gaming credits for cash, the Casinos took possession of and dominion over Plaintiff and Class Members’ property in derogation of their rights.

The Alternative Routes to Recovery

The plaintiffs in each filing raise alternative causes of action.

The Louisiana-based complaint raises one alternative cause of action. It argues that the casinos have been unjustly enriched by allegedly keeping money from the plaintiffs. They claim that money should have been returned.

The Mississippi-based complaint raises two additional causes of action:

  • one alleging unjust enrichment, and
  • one related to quantum meruit, a theory that the plaintiffs paid money expecting that they would receive the entirety of what they were owed.

What to Make of These US Retail Casino Patrons’ Complaints

Neither complaint was very long, and there is still the possibility that we may see more filings in different jurisdictions.

The filings in multiple jurisdictions will likely eventually be consolidated into one case. However, we are likely months away from that process.

At this point, both complaints are all the information we have, and neither is more than 12 pages long. In all likelihood, the casinos on the other side of these lawsuits will deny that they ever shortchanged customers. They may say that there was always a mechanism to withdraw the full value of the voucher.

One aspect to watch is if regulators look at these suits and attempt to head off future litigation, regardless of the outcome of these cases. They may do so by mandating a standardized process or disclaimer.

About the Author

John Holden

John Holden

John Holden is a writer at Bonus, focused on legal and regulatory issues in the gambling industry. He is a full-time academic but has been writing for a number of gaming publications since 2018. He is the author of more than 50 academic publications and hundreds of mainstream articles on the regulation of the gaming industry.
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