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Should man have to pay $500,000 casino debt even though he was drunk?

A man that lost $500,000 gambling over Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas is suing the casino claiming he shouldn't have to pay the debt because he was over-served. (AP Photo/Steve McEnroe, File)

A man who lost $500,000 gambling over Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas is suing the casino claiming he shouldn’t have to pay the debt because he was over-served and allowed to gamble.

Mark Johnston’s attorney, Sean Lyttle, tells KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that his client was staying at the Downtown Grand, and the establishment began serving his client alcohol as soon as he landed in Las Vegas.

“The drinking actually began before Mr. Johnston ever arrived on the property. He was served drinks by a limousine driver that was sent to the airport by the Downtown Grand. He was served additional drinks at a restaurant adjacent to and affiliated with the Downtown Grand, and then he was served drinks by the Downtown Grand itself after he had already reached a point of intoxication, before he was ever dealt his first card.”

Lyttle says they’re still piecing all the events of the evening together because Johnston can’t remember much of the evening.

“Mr. Johnston actually doesn’t remember leaving the restaurant where he had dinner that night after arriving in Las Vegas, nor does he remember anything for approximately the next day and a half.”

From what they’ve come up with so far, Lyttle says it appears Johnston gambled for around 17 hours uninterrupted during which time he was served anywhere from 25 to 30 additional alcoholic beverages and was issued markers totaling $500,000, which could be a problem for the casino.

“The basis of our lawsuit is the Nevada gaming regulations prohibit a casino, a gaming licensee, from serving complimentary alcoholic beverages to someone who is visibly intoxicated, and the regulations also prohibit casinos from dealing cards, or allowing a patron who is visibly intoxicated to gamble,” says Lyttle.

“In this instance, the Downtown Grand not only served Mr. Johnston comped drinks and dealt him cards while he was visibly intoxicated, but they also issued him half a million dollars in markers during that period of time that he was visibly intoxicated.”

Playing devil’s advocate, Dori asked whether there’s any issue with that fact that Johnston chose to have those drinks.

“It might be up to him to choose to have the first few drinks. Under Nevada law, it’s not up to him to sit down and be dealt cards, it’s not up to him to be served additional drinks,” says Lyttle.

Dori also pointed out this case could paint a real no-lose situation for people looking to get one over on the casino. “If you get drunk enough, if you win, take the winnings. If you lose, sue the casino.”

Lyttle says it’s true the regulations don’t discriminate between winners or losers. “The regulations in question in this case make it clear that the casino is not to deal cards and serve drinks to someone who is visibly intoxicated whether they’re up or down.”

He says Johnston has been on both the winning and losing side over his 30 years gambling in Vegas, but this time he says was different.

“This is the first time that he feels that he has been taken advantage of in this way. He has no problem paying his gambling debts when he believes that he was treated fairly.”

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