Mixed Ruling for MIT Blackjack Player From '21'


LAS VEGAS - An appeals court issued a mixed ruling for one member of the MIT Blackjack Team portrayed in the movie "21," raising questions on how casinos deal with suspected "advantage gamblers" and when their bans are lifted.

The ruling issued Tuesday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involves professional gambler Laurie Tsao, whom Caesars Entertainment casino personnel identified as an advantage gambler and escorted out five times with warnings that she'd been trespassing.

But the company sent her targeted offers for free rooms, including one inviting her to spend time in Las Vegas for the NCAA national college basketball tournament, leading her back to Caesars Palace and to an arrest on the casino floor in 2008.

The appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling, which dismissed Tsao's claims that a Las Vegas officer falsely arrested and defamed her, and that her constitutional rights were violated by the officer and the casino. But the appeals court reversed a ruling that dismissed similar false arrest and defamation claims against Caesars, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nevada state law allows casinos to ask suspected card counters to leave with a warning on the first offense. Refusing to leave or returning to the casino is a possible misdemeanor.

But the ruling raised the question of when those trespassing restrictions are lifted, especially in light of the special invitations Tsao was receiving from the company even after she'd been kicked out.

"It could be pertinent - depending on what Nevada law concerning consent to trespass turns out to be - whether (Caesars) anticipated that those potential customers invited to stay at its hotel or bet on basketball would gamble in its casino," the court wrote.

Tsao's lawsuit stems from her arrest early on the morning of March 19, 2008, after three security officials approached her at a table and asked her for identification. When she said she had none, she was handcuffed and taken to a holding room even after asking to leave.

She was held there until a police officer arrived and determined her identity through a long process that involved identifying her car in the parking lot with a key fob she had.

Tsao was booked at Clark County jail on suspicion of trespass and providing false information to an officer, but prosecutors later dropped the charges. She then filed a civil complaint against Caesars and the police officer.

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