US land-based casino operator Caesars Entertainment scored a spectacularly ill-timed own goal on Wednesday with the revelation that it was fined $100k by Nevada regulators for allowing underage patrons to gamble and consume alcohol at four of its Las Vegas properties. Vegas Inc. uncovered the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) records, which showed nine documented instances of customers aged 17 to 20 – Nevada’s legal gambling/drinking age is 21 – being allowed to gamble and/or booze it up at Caesars Palace, the Rio, Harrah’s and the Flamingo between January 2010 and May 2012.
In what was probably the most egregious incident, a 17-year-old played craps at Harrah’s for over five hours, during which time he was served at least six alcoholic beverages by four different Harrah’s staff members. During his stint on the casino floor, the underage carouser interacted with the aforementioned four drink servers, at least two dealers, a floor supervisor and at least 10 other Harrah’s employees – none of which thought to ask the kid for proof of age. Amazingly, the kid’s run only ended when Metro Police arrested him on an unrelated warrant. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) filed a complaint with the NGC on July 10, which noted that if the police hadn’t made the arrest, “it is possible the minor would have left Harrah’s of his own volition” and the GCB would have been none the wiser.
The complaint notes that Caesars was already on notice for four similar incidents between January 2010 and September 2011, but Caesars’ “continued failure to maintain compliance with the law necessitates that the board file this complaint” with the NGC. Caesars’ failure “tends to reflect poorly on the reputation of gaming in the state” and “acts as a detriment to the development of the gaming industry.” Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson declined comment on the complaint, but Caesars’ own website details its underage policy: “Caesars Entertainment is committed to keeping minors off the casino floor.” They even have a registered slogan: “We Care. We Card. ® And we will take action.” (To which, they may wish to add: “Eventually. ®”)
Caesars’ shortcomings in this area may ultimately cost it far more than $100k. Among US casino companies, Caesars has been one of the most vocal proponents of – and by far the biggest spender on lobbying for – a regulated online poker market. (With over $20b in debt, Caesars needs all the new revenue streams it can find.) Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson takes the polar opposite stance, and a chief plank of Adelson’s “moral opposition” to online gambling is his belief that the technology to block minors from accessing the sites isn’t ready for prime time. Adelson may be off-base on this issue, but it’s not hard to imagine some federal Republican pol eager to curry favor with his party’s biggest campaign contributor might cite Caesars’ failures as justification for rejecting any online poker bill proposed by Senators Harry Reid and Jon Kyl.