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Casinos turn to high court to collect gambling debts

Reported by: Sergio Avila
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Updated: 9/09/2013 10:15 pm
LAS VEGAS(KSNV & MyNews3) -- The Nevada Supreme Court will be hearing an appeal Tuesday for a man convicted of borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars from casinos and skipping out on his tab.

The case got us wondering how often this happens and how much money is lost because people just can't pay their debts.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Las Vegas Strip each year hoping to make a quick buck.

But, it's the high rollers who come in and drop millions who get the VIP treatment.

Many times this means the casinos let these big spenders borrow cash with a promise those markers will be paid back.

Experts with UNLV’s international gaming institute tell us anywhere from fifteen to twenty percent of the dollar amounts of those markers go uncollected.

In the U.S. the casinos have more power to get those debts paid and they can ultimately turn to the district attorney to file charges against the player.

David Schwartz is director of the UNLV Center for Gaming Research and says it's a risk the casinos have to take.

“It’s probably about 15 percent of their total income comes from credit based players and that’s a very important 15 percent so that’s really something you have to do,” Schwartz said.

Tuesday morning the Nevada Supreme Court will hear the case of Harel Zahavi who is challenging his 2011 conviction of skipping out on more than $380,000 in gambling debt.

It's the first time a high roller takes his case to the state's highest court.

Schwartz said in 2012 The Strip casinos wrote off nearly $122 million in bad debt or money people can't pay back.

“Absolutely $122 million is a lot of money,” Schwartz said “It’s a ton of money but if you look at the bigger picture, how many billions of dollars of money is passing through the casino each year and how many billions of dollars in revenue they have it’s actually a pretty small percentage.”

Schwartz says that's only two percent of the total gaming revenue for strip casinos for the year. It's a small percentage of money but that's money the casinos want back.

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