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Unpaid Debts Painful To Vegas Economy

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Jul/16/2009

Fox 5 Las Vegas

Longtime Las Vegans have heard the tales of gamblers who would "wind up in a hole in the desert" when they didn't pay their debts to casinos.

The CEO's who run Las Vegas may not think that way anymore, but they're not going to let you slide. Not in this economy.

"A gaming debt is treated like any other bad check debt," said Assistant Clark County District Attorney Christopher Lalli.

Such is the case with former NBA star Antoine Walker, currently one of the high-profile cases to come across Lalli's desk. Walker is accused of writing bad checks totaling $1 million to Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood and Red Rock Resort.

Lalli said gambling debts represent a "sizable amount" of the bad check business in the DA's office. Each case is treated like a criminal offense.

Walker's case is no exception. But his $1 million debt is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the big picture.

"In 2008 all Nevada casinos had $132 million in bad debts they wrote off as ‘bad debt expense,'" said gaming analyst David Schwartz. "That's about 1 percent of their income."

Gambling debts, Schwartz said, weren't collectible under Nevada law until 1983. Up until that point casinos used other methods to convince gamblers to pay up, although Schwartz wouldn't discuss specifics.

Now that casinos are run by corporations and not ex-gamblers, he said, the stakes have changed. A company's bottom line is at risk and with the economy keeping tourists away from Las Vegas, any outstanding debt must be collected.

"They can't let it slide because they like the people gambling, or because that's how it was done in the past," Schwartz said. "If [gamblers] win they would expect the money. But they lost and should have to pay it."

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