Can You Be Arrested for Leaving the Casino with Chips in Atlantic City?

Atlantic City may be a destination for seasoned gamblers or everyday folks looking to have some fun.  No matter which one you are, you may have questions about what you can and can’t do in an Atlantic City casino.  One of the most common questions people have about casino chips, in particular, is whether you can leave the casino with them.  In general, you can take chips away from a casino without being arrested, but there are always caveats and details you should investigate before deciding to take chips from a casino.  Atlantic City casino crimes lawyer John Zarych explains.

Can You Steal Poker Chips?

In general, you can leave a casino with poker chips.  Casinos do not expect patrons to cash in their chips every time, especially if they will be staying in AC for a few days and want to return later or come back the next day.  When you’re doing this, you should be allowed to leave the casino with your chips.  Chips also make a great collectible, and many people may accept the chip’s face value as a good price for an interesting souvenir.  However, there are exceptions to this rule.

While it may be legal to take your own chips from a casino, it is certainly a crime to take someone else’s chips.  Any chips you exchange money for are yours, as are any chips you win from gambling.  However, other people’s chips belong to them.  Taking chips from someone else or from the house can automatically be considered a theft crime; you don’t even have to leave the casino before you can be arrested and charged.

If you are reported for this crime, you may be stopped by casino security, police, or even angry victims before you reach the door.  If you do manage to get away, you could still be arrested and charged with the crime later.  As long as you possess stolen poker chips or other casino chips, you could be committing other theft crimes like receiving stolen property, which you can also be arrested for.

These are the typical rules, but individual casinos may have their own rules about leaving with chips.  If you are in doubt, just ask casino staff.

Can You Be Arrested for Cashing in Stolen Chips?

Many people who do steal casino chips are arrested and charged with a crime when they return to cash in the chips.  When this happens, you can usually be arrested for being in possession of stolen items.  In some cases, police and casino security may not have enough evidence to accuse you of theft, but you can still be arrested for possession of stolen chips.

Cashing in chips you won legitimately should not be an issue since the dealer or a pit boss can usually vouch for you that you did win those chips.  Casino security may even escort you and encourage you to cash in your chips before leaving.  However, if you return to a casino with chips and want to cash them in, you may have to answer questions about where you got the chips, which could result in a casino refusing to cash your chips or calling the police.

Casinos have high-tech security procedures that allow them to scan and track chips.  This means that when a dealer reports a theft, the casino will usually check to see if chips being cashed in match the stolen chips.  Casinos commonly use RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips housed in the casino chips or UV stamps to identify chips.  This prevents people from being able to do things like repainting chips to appear to be a higher value or turning in counterfeit chips that have no RFID, both of which could lead to counterfeiting charges.

Penalties for Stealing Casino Chips

In New Jersey, the crime of theft has potentially serious penalties based on how you took the chips and how much they were worth.  New Jersey ranks its crimes as “disorderly persons offenses” for misdemeanors and first through fourth degree “indictable crimes” for felonies.  These carry different prison sentences and fines depending on the level of crime.

If the chips you stole were taken through extortion or violence, the crime could be upgraded.  Mere threats can upgrade a crime to a third degree crime automatically, whereas full-fledged theft by extortion is automatically a second degree crime.  If you use actual violence, the crime could be upgraded to robbery and you could face added penalties.

The amount stolen is simple to determine in most casino chip theft cases.  While the chips may have no value outside a casino, they still often represent their face value, which can be easily totaled when determining your sentence.  The following values match with the listed crime level:

  • Stealing under $200 is a disorderly persons offense punished by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
  • Stealing at least $200 but less than $500 is a fourth degree crime punished by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000.
  • Stealing at least $500 but under $75,000 is a third degree crime punished by 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000.
  • Stealing $75,000 or more is a second degree crime punished by 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

Talk to an attorney about your case and the potential penalties you face based on the specifics of your charges.

Atlantic City Casino Crimes Lawyer Offering Free Consultations

If you were charged with stealing casino chips or trying to cash in stolen chips, talk to an attorney.  The Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to take your case and help you fight the charges, work to get charges reduced, and help lower the penalties for casino chip theft.  To schedule your free consultation, contact us online or call us today at (609) 616-4956.

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