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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Casino Credit: Worthwhile for the Wary, Ruinous for the Reckless

5 September 1994

Casino credit players can write "markers" to borrow gambling money free of interest or other charges. This avoids carrying wads of bills. And it beats credit card cash advance and teller machines, which levy fees and may limit withdrawals to inadequate bankrolls. Credit is also convenient since table players never have to leave the game while slot fans do it all at the cashier's cage. Further, account ceilings can serve as latent loss limits, while requests for additional markers can act as reality checks. Finally, some casino-goers think it accords them prestige.

The risk is that ready rubles can woo the weak-willed into wagering too high or chasing losses too low. And, by running tabs at several casinos, bettors who bottom-out at one place can exceed individual lending limits by signing markers elsewhere.

Opening an account

To open an account or change limits, see a casino credit manager, usually at a desk near the cashier's cage. The form is like that for a credit card. Set a realistic range as low as $1,000 although $2,500 to $10,000 and up is more common. Normally, the casino calls your bank to verify that you can cover the requested limit. Approval can be on the spot during banking hours and in a day or so at other times. However, if you have credit at another casino which has recently verified your bank status, a new account can sometimes be promptly approved.

An account stays active as long as you use it and keep it current. After a dormant period or bounced check, your credit may be pulled and you'll have to get it reinstated. Also, even if you write markers often, the casino calls your bank periodically and may cut you off if the report is negative.

Obtaining and repaying money

Once you have credit, obtain money by asking ask a pit supervisor or casino cashier for a marker. You'll enter identifying data and how much you want on a voucher. You'll then get a check, drawn on your bank, payable to the casino for the requested amount. Sign it, and receive chips at the table or cash at the cage.

Casino short-term loans are for gambling, not car payments. Win or break even, and you're expected to cash out your marker before leaving. Lose some of the advance, and you're expected to redeem at least the remainder with cash then and there.

Rules vary with jurisdiction, but casinos typically hold unredeemed $1,000-and-under markers for seven days; over this, it's fourteen. You can have multiple unpaid smaller advances, totalling over $1000, consolidated into a tab the casino will hold for two weeks from the earliest transaction. Redeeming part of a larger marker, leaving a balance under $1000, still gives two weeks' grace. And, when you pay one of several outstanding markers, the casino redeems the most recent first.

Options to repay markers you don't cash out right away are:

1) Write a check to cover the markers immediately. The casino will deposit it the next banking day, deducting the amount from your limit until the check clears.

2) Redeem markers for cash or a check during the grace period.

3) Do nothing. At the end of the grace period, the casino will deposit the markers, which are treated like ordinary checks.

Is it for you?

Consider credit if you visit a particular casino over six times a year, have a per-trip bankroll exceeding $1,000, buy-in for $500 or more, and have the discipline to limit easy borrowing. Unless you meet these criteria, especially the discipline, forget it.

And, there's always the "front money" route. Deposit cash or a cash-equivalent like traveler's checks at the cage. Draw on the account using markers. Add to it with profits or residuals after each session. Recover the balance in cash or a check.

As Sumner A Ingmark, the longshot lyricist, knowingly noted:

Taking out markers is hardly a sin,
Paying them off's where the devil comes in.
Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.