Bad Bounces For Bettor as MGM Airballs Two Sportsbook Checks, Player Fights to Get Less Than $1K to Clear

Posted on: June 21, 2019, 03:23h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2019, 11:12h.

MGM Resorts International — the largest casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip —  bounced not one, but two checks to a California man looking to collect winnings on wagers made during the NCAA Tournament.

MGM Resorts bounced two smallish checks to a Cali sports bettor who played at the MGM Grand’s book, and it took TV news interference for him to get any action to make things right. (Image: Los Angeles Times)

Jose Moreno visited Sin City in March for some rest and relaxation and to place a few bets on March Madness. He returned home to California before the games he wagered on started and upon realizing he had some winning tickets, he reached out to the MGM Grand to see how to claim his cash.

A staffer at that Strip property told Moreno to fill out the backs of his tickets, mail them in and expect a check in a couple of weeks, according to an interview with KTNV, the Las Vegas ABC affiliate.

By his own acknowledgment, Moreno’s bets were not sizable. He told KTNV the wagers were $200 apiece, hardly Billy Walters territory. His total winnings were $763.70, an amount so innocuous, no gambler would give it a second thought, since casinos regularly pay out jackpots and table game wins in the four-to-seven figure range.

Certainly for a casino operator with a market value of $15 billion, as MGM has, it would seem like a slam-dunk to clear.

But the first check MGM cut to Moreno bounced. So did the second. Both checks had stamps on them saying “Refer to Maker” (see bottom of story for more on that).

Wasted Time and PR Misstep

Moreno told KTNV that — by his estimation — he devoted 12 hours of time to communicating with MGM and sending documents they claimed were needed to secure his winnings, but after three months of the back-and-forth, he was still without a good check or his money.

Sending a patron worthless checks represents a public relations gaffe for a company that has endured plenty of those for over a year. Adding to the bad look around MGM bouncing a check to a customer is a classic case of the haves and have-nots: CEO Jim Murren made $12.8 million last year, but the median MGM employee made barely more than $36,000.

As part of its MGM 2020 plan, the company has been looking to slash costs, recently laying off over 1,000 workers.

While no one from MGM wanted to appear on camera with KTNV, the gaming operator told the station it had overnighted a new check to Moreno and invited him back for a complimentary four-night stay at the MGM Grand that included $1,000 in resort credits.

Plenty Of Bad Check Protection: For Casinos, That Is

Nevada has stiff penalties for writing bad checks to casinos (or anyone else), and the Clark County district attorney’s office has a unit dedicated to punishing issuers of the same. Casino operators are vigilant in pursuing offenders and like customers to know it, too.

However, the Silver State’s laws seem to imply that gaming companies are most likely to be victims of phony checks, not perpetrators of the offense, as all the references to the bad check statute NRS 205.134 for ”Issuance of check or draft without sufficient money or credit” imply that the fraudster is not a global gaming conglomerate but a player, as stated on Nevada’s criminal code site:

The issuance of a check or draft without sufficient money or with intent to defraud is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment, and the issuance of such a check or draft in an amount of $650 or more or by a person who previously has been convicted three times of this or a similar offense is punishable as a category D felony.

The state’s penalties for the offense are harsh: none of which, needless to say, will ever come back to haunt MGM in court or anywhere else.

“Refer To Maker” — What Does it Mean?

Checks, such as the two MGM issued issued to Moreno, with the “Refer to Maker,” or “RTM,” stamp mean the recipient of the document must contact the issuer to inquire as to why the check was returned. Once one check has the RTM marking, it cannot be redeposited and a new one must be issued.

If the issuing party cannot ascertain why the check was voided, it must contact the original check issuer to get to the bottom of the situation. In other words, getting a new check issued — or finding out why the initial check never cleared —  becomes the burden of the person who was initially issued the bad check, as was the case for Moreno.