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A found ticket story

14 September 2009

John,

I was reading your archives and came across your request for readers' experiences with lost tickets.

About a year and a half ago, my then-81-year-old father was at a riverboat casino in Indiana. He saw a ticket sticking out of a dollar machine and, assuming it was for an odd amount less than a dollar, took it. No one was at the machine, nor was anyone saving the machine for someone. Dad even commented jokingly to a security guard standing a couple feet away that it was his lucky day. The guard just smiled.

When dad sat down at his next machine and put the ticket in it turned out it was for $100. About 15-20 minutes later another security person approached my dad and asked him to come with her. She walked dad all the way out of the boat and up the ramp into what amounted to a little closet, where she proceeded to tell him what he did was theft and that they could a) have him arrested, or b) ban him for life from the casino, but that she would be nice and just kick him out for the day.

Of course my dad was nervous and scared even though he did nothing wrong. Luckily my brother came along as they were making dad leave. He was told he could stay but dad had to go.

Dad is a big spender so they probably lost a lot of money. Plus he had just hit for $300. He took his winnings and went down the road to another casino.

A friend of mine who is involved in casinos said what the security guard did was illegal. If not illegal, it certainly was horrible customer service.

Just thought I'd share a story that goes against all the others that say finders keepers.

Thanks for keeping us slot players informed.

Phil

Dear Phil,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

Each state has its own found property laws, but as a general rule I think it is safe to say that any money you find should be turned in to the casino. In some states, abandoned money is considered casino property. If the casino can't reunite the money with its owner, the money is donated to charity.

I'm sure the statute of limitations has expired by now, so I will admit to playing with found money. I was playing video poker at Treasure Island. I was not having much luck and the bill acceptor on my machine was acting up, so a slot attendant offered to go to the change booth to exchange my bills for tokens. While she was gone, the player next to me also had a run of bad luck.

He got up and stormed away after letting loose with a particularly colorful set of expletives. In his haste, he left behind about $15 in tokens. I looked around to see if I could see him, but he was gone. I waited for a few minutes to see if he would come back, but he didn't.

My lucky day, as your dad said. I scooped up the tokens, played them in my machine and had such a run of good luck that I never needed the tokens the slot attendant fetched for me.

This may be a rationalization to justify doing something wrong, but back in the days of coin machines I didn't have any qualms about picking up a few coins or playing off a few credits I had found because it was very unlikely that a player would bother coming back for such a small amount. It the amount was about 20 times the denomination of the machine or more, I alerted a slot floorperson.

Unlike coins, today's tickets could conceivably be matched with their true owners. Because of that possibility, I suggest turning in all found tickets.

As for the security guard's actions, I certainly think she overreacted. Your dad did not deserve to be treated like someone who spent his day walking the slot aisles looking for money left behind. A simple explanation about what he should have done would have sufficed.

That said, I think if the first security guard knew what your dad was doing, he should have advised him to turn in the ticket. And if there was any indication of the amount on the ticket, your dad should have turned it in after he saw that it was worth more than a few dollars.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots