Putting Bills Into a Machine

In January, I had an incident at the Harrah’s Cherokee casino that I wrote about. I started my trip by taking a $20,000 marker, consisting of eight $2,500 TITO tickets and began to play $5 Deuces Wild. When I hit four deuces, I got two more of the same size . When I hit royals, I collected eight more.

It was a very successful trip and at the end, I had far more than eight of these tickets. I had signed for every one of them. At the end of the trip when I cashed out, the cage said one of the $2,500 tickets had been cancelled. They weren’t going to pay it until they figured it out.

Eventually, it got straightened out and I got paid. It took a bit longer than I would have preferred, but all’s well that ends well. 

In April, I returned to Cherokee. I started my trip as I did before — taking out a $20,000 marker asking for $2,500 tickets. It took a bit longer than usual — the one ticket-making machine was being used to create tickets for somebody else — but eventually I was summoned to the window and my tickets were ready.

When you get these tickets at Cherokee, you need to sign for them. The ticket number of each ticket is recorded, and to the right of the ticket numbers, it’s typical to draw a slanted line and sign on the top of that line. This means you’re signing for all of them.

I was presented the sheet to sign and I noticed there were ten entries. It doesn’t take a math major to realize that ten tickets of $2,500 add up to $25,000 rather than $20,000. I looked at it closely. Had the tickets been made for $2,000 each instead, the amount of money represented by the tickets would have been $20,000. This was not what I had requested exactly, but certainly acceptable.

But no. The tickets were each for $2,500 and there were ten of them. I know this is a mistake, but I take a few seconds to ponder my next move. I was pretty sure I was going to refuse to take the extra two tickets, but I wanted to consider my options. Had I signed and taken the tickets as presented, I would have gotten a $5,000 unintended bonanza. But one that was well documented. Should the audit department be paying attention at all, in a day or two I might well get a tap on the shoulder and be asked for the return of $5,000.

I could feign ignorance, of course. After all, a lot of people sign things without doing all the calculations. I could easily say, “I didn’t really count things. I assumed it was correct.” They couldn’t prove I was lying — but I didn’t want to be under suspicion of “taking a shot.”

My philosophy on keeping an unexpected windfall goes something like this: “If I get a windfall that can’t be traced back to me, keep it. If it can be traced back to me, give it back. If one individual cashier or other employee will have to make up the shortfall, don’t take the windfall. Probably somebody working for wages needs the money more than I do.” Another factor is the last time there was a dispute over tickets at this casino, it ended up going my way. I know things can’t always go my way.

So, I spoke up. The cashier took the tickets back and went away. He returned shortly with eight $2,500 tickets and a new form for me to sign. 

I don’t know how he went from 10 tickets down to eight. If he just cancelled two of them, I couldn’t be positive that the two he cancelled had the same numbers as the two that were no longer on the list I signed.

So I decided that if I hit jackpots before I went through this $20,000, I would get tickets in sizes other than $2,500 so I could make sure I used up the original ones I received. If I got a royal, I’d ask for ten $2,000 tickets. If I get four deuces, I’d ask for four $1,250 tickets. This will make it easier to identify the original tickets and make sure I didn’t try to sell them back.

This ended up being a losing trip, but at the end of the day I’m happy with the way I handled things.


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