How Casinos Deal With Drunk Gamblers

Several Drinks on Left with Roulette Table On Rigth

Casinos have been serving alcohol to gamblers for decades. They use free alcohol to ply players into gambling longer.

The stereotype is that casinos want to get gamblers as drunk as possible. This way, players will make poor decisions and lose more money.

However, casinos have regulations to abide by. They can’t just pull out a beer bong, get gamblers completely drunk, and proceed to take their money.

Casinos will actually get in trouble by serving people too much. They’ll especially face scrutiny if they win lots of money off the same players.

But what exactly happens when a casino crosses the line when serving alcohol? As the following guide explains, the answer varies from one situation to the next.

How Much Alcohol Can Casinos Serve Gamblers?

No two gambling jurisdictions are exactly alike when it comes to alcohol regulations. Some jurisdictions are loose on this matter, while others are extremely strict.

Pennsylvania is a good example of the latter. The Keystone State features a number of restrictions regarding how casinos can serve drinks.

Some of the key rules regarding Pennsylvania’s gaming market include:

  • Gamblers aren’t allowed to drink on the gaming floor.
  • Casino resort visitors must buy alcohol with food.
  • Casinos cannot sell drinks past 11 pm under any circumstances.
  • Visitors must finish/dispose of all drinks by 12 am.

Detroit doesn’t impose as many rules surrounding when and how the three Detroit casinos can provide alcohol. It does, however, ban casinos from serving free drinks. Anybody who visits a Detroit casino must buy their alcohol outright.

Las Vegas has lax laws on drinking compared to other gaming jurisdictions. It even allows people to walk around with open containers on the Vegas Strip. The main thing that Sin City is worried about is preventing minors from drinking and gambling.

Of course, Vegas casinos also need to worry about not over-serving guests. Provided they can do this, though, they should be able to avoid any alcohol-related fines and troubles.

What Happens When Casinos Cross the Line?

Casinos don’t always do a great job at limiting customers’ alcohol consumption. In fact, they sometimes go too far and face punishments as a result.

As mentioned above, Detroit casinos aren’t supposed to serve free drinks to customers. MGM Grand Detroit, however, violated this rule when they comped high rollers with alcohol. They had to pay a $225,000 fine for the violation along with another $75,000 to cover the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s investigation.

Cocktail With Poker Cards and Chips

Pennsylvania’s Mount Airy Casino Resort got in trouble after serving a gambler 27 drinks over a nine-hour period. The player was so drunk that they fell off of their barstool at one point. Mount Airy paid a $25,000 fine for the incident.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia (then SugarHouse Casino) also ran into trouble for serving too many drinks. They gave a Pai Gow Poker player 17 alcoholic beverages over the course of eight hours. Rivers had to cover a $17,500 fine.

Casinos Don’t Always Get In Trouble for Overly Drunk Gamblers

You can see that casinos don’t have free reign to serve unlimited drinks to players. They can easily get in trouble by over-serving.

In some cases, though, gaming establishments are found not to be at fault. The gamblers themselves also bear some responsibility for keeping a reasonable sobriety level.

A perfect example of this involves the case of Mark Johnston. A California businessman, Johnston lost $500,000 at the Downtown Grand Las Vegas in 2014. He argued that the Downtown Grand served him so many drinks that he got blackout drunk. Johnston claimed to not remember most of his losses.

He admitted to consuming 10 drinks before entering the casino. He believed that Downtown Grand took advantage of him, though, by serving him another 17 drinks once inside.

Lawyers for the Downtown Grand were successfully able to argue that Johnston wasn’t visibly drunk upon arrival. A judge ultimately sided with the casino.

Johnston still refused to pay the losses/markers over a year after the incident. Nevada police issued a warrant for his arrest when he failed to show for a hearing.

Much of the Responsibility Lies With the Player

Outside of the rare cases covered before, casinos don’t usually receive the blame for gamblers getting drunk. Instead, the players must watch out for themselves.

Gambling establishments will continue serving alcohol where permitted. They typically give out free drinks as one of the casino comps to those who gamble enough.

With that said, every player must be aware of this situation and avoid consuming too much alcohol. Otherwise, they risk losing their senses and potentially their bankroll, too.

How to Avoid Drinking Too Much in the Casino

Casinos don’t make it easy to turn down drinks when they’re giving alcohol out for free.

Jackpot Punch Casino Drink

With that said, you should follow some tips to keep yourself fairly sober when gambling. The following advice will help you avoid consuming too much.

Drink Both Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Nobody says that you can only take alcoholic drinks when cocktail waitresses offer. Instead, you can also request beverages like tea, pop, and juice.

You’ll do well to alternate between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. First off, this method helps you dilute some of the alcohol. Secondly, it puts more time in between when you consume spirits.

Know Your Personal Limits

If you’re somebody who has alcohol on a semi-regular basis, then you probably have a good idea on your limits. The casino is not the best time to test these limits.

Instead, you want to drink well below what will typically make you drunk. Assuming you’re able to handle around eight drinks before becoming inebriated, you should stick to three to five drinks in the casino.

Provided you’re not somebody who consumes alcohol regularly, you should keep the limit at two to three drinks. This amount will be all you can handle before the bad decisions begin surfacing.

Generally, you want to keep your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.06% or less. This is the perfect range for having a good time without suffering severely impaired judgment.

Use your best judgment when deciding to consume your favorite beverage. Because sometimes there are good reasons why you should or shouldn’t drink as a gambler.

Drink Water in Between

One of the most tried-and-true tips for drinking involves having water in between beverages. This practice accomplishes two goals:Icon of Drink with Ice, Straw and Lemon

  1. Helps flush the alcohol out of your system.
  2. Gets you drinking something other than alcohol.

You can visit the bathroom every so often and get a drink from the fountain. At least several ounces each hour will help prevent you from getting too drunk.

Use a Straight Glass Instead of a Curved One

Research suggests that the shape of your glass affects how much you’ll drink throughout the night. Specifically, you want to drink from a straight glass. A study showed that those sipping from a straight glass drink 60% slower than those with curved glass.

More research showed that bartenders pour approximately 20% to 30% more alcohol into short and wide glasses, versus tall and skinny ones.

Given these studies, you might want to consider asking the cocktail waitresses for specific glass shapes. You may feel silly doing so, but this request will pay off in the form of more sobriety.

Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach

You should always eat something before drinking. Having something in your stomach prevents you from getting drunk too quickly.

If you’re staying at the casino, you can head to one of its restaurants and have a bite. Assuming the casino is close, you can eat at home before leaving, too.

Our Final Thoughts

Casinos will always serve free alcohol to gamblers where permitted. They benefit by getting players to make less optimal decisions and, ultimately, lose more money.

However, casinos bear a responsibility to avoid over-serving gamblers. They can get into serious trouble by giving drinks to somebody who’s already inebriated.

Gaming jurisdictions put rules in place to protect gamblers in this case. They’ll fine and reprimand casinos that violate such rules.

Of course, the players themselves also bear a responsibility to stay relatively sober. They can’t expect to sue and avoid paying losses in most cases. The casino must be in serious violation for this to happen.

In summary, gambling establishments need to be careful how much they serve to each player. The gamblers, meanwhile, should be responsible as well by not overdrinking and losing too much money.