No, I'm not kidding. It's for real.
I am obvious a lousy foreteller of the future, because a mere three weeks ago I wrote:
From this book I learned a lot that I did not previously know about the
statutes, case law, and regulations that govern gambling generally and casinos'
interactions with and responsibilities to their patrons. However, very little of
it will have any relevance to my life. Given my personality, my nearly exclusive
use of casinos for poker, and my propensity to stay well clear of anything that
might even look like cheating, all of my interactions with casino security
personnel to date have been pleasant, nonconfrontational, and uneventful, and I
expect they will continue to be.
Wow. How wrong could I have been?
After an unsuccessful session at Santa Fe Station in North Las Vegas, I decided to swing by the Cannery, a few miles to the east, to see if they had a game going. While there, I thought, I could also take a few "Guess the Casino" shots.
I had taken seven photos when a Cannery security guard (his nametag identified him as "Kwang") told me to stop. OK. I put my camera away. I asked him why, and he just gave me non-answers, like, "Because you're not allowed to take pictures." He couldn't explain any reason for the policy. "That's just what I've been told." OK. He asked what I had been taking a picture of. I pointed to the rather obvious colorful mural that stretched some 30 feet side to side. "That." (He would later tell other security officers that I had been taking pictures of their ceiling security cameras, so either he was paying no attention to my answer, or he just decided to make up a lie.)
I walked over to the poker room, found that they didn't have any no-limit games going. I didn't feel like playing $2-4 limit, so I turned to go. To my surprise, Kwang was there again. He asked to see the pictures I had taken. I declined and started walking back the way I had come. He came along, repeatedly asking me and telling me to stop. I kept walking, but engaged him in dialog: "Do you believe you have legal grounds to detain me?" He didn't answer that directly at first, but instead deflected the question by saying that it was against their policy to have photos taken. So I asked him more specifically, "Do you have any reason to believe that I have committed a felony in the casino?" Again, he didn't answer directly, but just repeated that he needed to inspect my camera. I told him repeatedly that I did not believe he or anybody else there had any right to look at it or to detain me.
All the while, he's on his radio, telling whoever is on the other end things like, "He's refusing." "He's not stopping." Unfortunately for me, my entrance was on the far end of the facility from the poker room, so it was a long walk. By the time I got there, we were met by several other security people. At first they simply tried to step in front of me. When I was able to step around them, though, they finally just grabbed my arm and held me, then surrounded me and let go--six of them, at the max. I knew enough not to give them an excuse to escalate the level of force. In addition to Kwang, there was one wearing a "Larry" nametag. (Moe and Curly had the night off, I guess.) The others were not wearing nametags that I could see.
They finally announced clearly that I was being detained and I was not free to go. Two of them were openly armed. I asked the grounds for my detention. They said it was because I was taking pictures. I asked whether they had reason to think that I had committed a felony, which is the only suspicion that triggers their authority to detain. Yes, I was told--taking pictures. I asked, incredulously, "You think that's a felony?" The guy said, "Yes, it's a violation of our policy"--as if that's the same thing. I don't know whether he was really that ignorant, or just felt verbally cornered, and intentionally lied, hoping that I wouldn't call his bluff. I did. I laughed in his face. I'll confess that a bit of sarcasm slipped out: "My, you're very well-trained in your job, aren't you?" He then tried to argue that taking photos was a violation of state gaming regulations. Uh, no, it isn't that, either (gaming regulations govern what licensees--the casinos--can and cannot do, not what patrons can and cannot do), and even if it were, that wouldn't give you authority to detain me, absent a felony. They were just making this crap up as they went, because, I believe, they knew they had nothing legitimate on me.
All of this was taking place in the space between the inner and outer set of doors at one entryway--I had not quite made it out of the building, about ten feet short. They said that if I didn't let them look at the pictures I had taken, they would call the police. I told them I was not voluntarily handing over my camera. They said they would call the police. I told them to do what they felt they needed to do. (This later got morphed into them saying that I had requested that they call the police. Yeah, right.) So we stood there for maybe 20 minutes waiting for the officers to come to investigate this most horrific of crimes.
During that time, I engaged in a little verbal cat-and-mouse with one of the older security guys, who was trying to intimidate me. He kept pointing out that this was private property. Really? Gee. Who knew? Because it was private property, he said, they could prohibit photography. I told him that I didn't argue with that point, and as soon as they had asked me to stop taking pictures, I complied. I also pointed out that there were no signs informing people of this policy. When I repeated, again, that I was not staying there voluntarily and wished to leave, he informed me, again, that this was private property and they were not allowing me to leave. This is a non sequitur. I told him that the one does not follow from the other. I asked him, "Do you think that if somebody comes into your yard at home, you can use force to prevent him from leaving just because you feel like it?" He said, "Yes. On your own private property you can do anything you want to do." Again, it's hard to know if he is actually that stupid, or was just bluffing with an answer because he realized he had been caught making an assertion that didn't make any sense, and had to go with it.
As we were having this discussion, he kept interrupting me when I would try to answer his questions or ask him my own. I finally asked him, "Are you always this rude, interrupting people in civil conversation?" He said, "Yeah. Yeah, I am. I'm the rudest motherfucker you'll ever meet." Nice. Is that what your training manual tells you you're supposed to say? Not too long thereafter, he decided that he was losing this particular battle of wits, and cut off the conversation.
At some point, somebody deep in the bowels of the establishment instructed the goons to take me to the security holding area. I heard a snippet of conversation between two of them that suggested that this was because they didn't have good overhead camera coverage of the spot we were in.
One of them told me to accompany him. I asked, "And if I refuse?" He said, "They we'll cuff you and carry you there." So I told him, "All right, but I am not going voluntarily. I am going under protest and over my objection, under threat of duress."
When we reached the security area, they informed me both verbally and by a posted sign that the area was being audiotaped and videotaped. Fine with me. I sat on a bench and waited. When they left me alone, I pulled out my cell phone and was going to email the photos to my home computer. But then I thought better of it. I didn't want the phone out where they could just grab it. If they were going to take it from me, they would have to open my fanny pack and remove it against my will. So I put it away again. Probably a good thing. Mere seconds later, I overhead one of the security guys tell another, "Stay here and watch him. If he takes the camera out or puts his hands where you can't see them, we'll cuff him."
Finally the police showed up--two officers at first, but ultimately what appeared to be five or six of them out in the hall. (Couldn't tell for sure as they were milling back and forth.) Obviously, this was the biggest case of the night in North Las Vegas to justify this usage of manpower. Your tax dollars at work. The first two did a good cop/bad cop thing on me. However, unless I miss my mark, I don't think it was a performance. I think one of them was just naturally calm and soft-spoken, and the other a natural hard-assed, impatient, overauthoritarian, rude jerk.
They took my fanny pack--a process which I clearly but politely informed them was without my consent (not that I really thought that would stop them, but I wanted it on the record)--removed my wallet and took out my driver's license. After a while, they came back and informed me that my license was listed as having been suspended. This was news to me. I had never received any such notice. I asked if he knew any more details. He said the code only told him that it was "on the advice of the court," or words to that effect. It made no sense to me.
Blah, blah, blah, lots of discussion, lots of stupid and irrelevant questions (had I ever been arrested before, was I on any medication, etc.--not exactly things tailored to investigating the situation at hand), me trying to tell my story, and bad-ass cop always interrupting me and telling me that I had a bad attitude and I should just cooperate.
When they asked why I was taking pictures, I decided not to bother being obstructionist about it. I mean, legally I didn't have to tell them anything. But as a practical matter, it seemed likely to me that going the silent route would have resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct or some other B.S. charge. At least in this particular set of circumstances, taking my constitutional rights to the outer limit wasn't worth a night in jail, attorney fees, etc., when I knew that the truth was both perfectly innocent and readily verifiable.
So I told them of this blog and the "Guess the casino" series. One of them wrote down the URL and disappeared to look it up. Nobody ever told me explicitly that they had confirmed my story, but they obviously must have, else Officer Bad-Ass would have come back steaming mad and accusing me of lying to them, obstructing their investigation, etc. One of the police officers (not one of the original two) popped his head in the room to ask how much time I spent on the blog, whether I got paid for it, etc. He said that he played a little poker himself and thought it looked like there was some worthwhile stuff here that he wanted to go back and read later. This will officially be the strangest way I have ever picked up a new reader.
I overheard a bit of conversation taking place in the hallway between two of the officers, or perhaps one of the officers and the head security person. The gist of it was that the officer had spoken to his supervisor, and was told that there appeared to have been no law broken, and therefore they really couldn't do anything about me. I felt like saying, "This is what I have been trying to tell you."
One of the security guys finally took my picture and read me the official trespass warning. Part of it was that I was ordered to leave the property immediately. I chuckled and pointed out the irony that that was precisely what I had been trying to do, and would have done, except for them forcibly stopping me from leaving.
This was my official Bannery from the Cannery.
They were then ready to escort me off the premises. But wait--I pointed out some practical problems. The officer had confiscated my driver's license because he said it was suspended, so I obviously couldn't drive home, and if I left my car I had reason to fear that the casino would have it towed away, etc. After some negotiation, they agreed to let my car remain in the parking garage unmolested, and when I was ready the next day to come get it, I could call the head of security (they gave me his name and number) to get temporary permission to come on the property for that purpose. Were they all really so dense that I was the only one that could anticipate these items as potential problems?
One of the security guys, I have to say, was admirably calm, quiet, relaxed, and reasonable throughout the whole ordeal, in rather dramatic contrast to his overexcitable partners. I chatted with him as we headed for the exit. He told me that this whole thing could have been avoided if I had just cooperated. I'm not so sure. I think it's plausible that if I had handed over my cell phone camera, they would have felt at liberty to either keep it or delete the photos that they didn't approve of, or who knows what else. I wasn't willing to compromise on that or give them the opportunity. So I told the young man that I understood his point of view, but didn't share it. I said that from my perspective, the whole thing could have been avoided if his crew both understood and remained within the limits of their legal authority, and didn't unlawfully detain people who had committed no crime and had not given any reason to think that a crime had been committed.
We walked to the garage so I could show them which car was mine, in order that they not think it abandoned. We were then walking along the driveway toward the exit (I was scanning for open businesses across the street from which I could call a friend--it was kind of cold out), when Officer Bad-Ass pulled up in his squad car. He stopped us, handed me my license back, and said he had gotten a call from his supervisor saying that some sort of mistake had been made, and it wasn't suspended after all. (I have no idea what that was all about.) That made everything easier. We just walked back to my car, and I drove off.
The whole thing took about an hour and a half.
I felt extraordinarily fortunate to have read Bob Nersesian's book Beat the Players less than a month before. Although I have enough basic knowledge of the law to have pretty much guessed correctly at the limits of casino security authority, it was extremely comforting to know for sure where things stood, and that it was the Cannery security officers who were committing the crimes (assault, battery, and false imprisonment), not I.
It's possible that I will look into suing the casino and its employees for these crimes and torts. If I were a multimillionaire and could afford to pay an attorney an hourly rate to do it, I would in a heartbeat. But whether I could convince any attorney to take the case on a contingency basis is pretty iffy, given that my actual damages are limited to about 90 minutes of lost time. I wouldn't and couldn't even claim mental/emotional distress, since I was entirely sure I was in the right the entire time, and was far more bored and amused (alternately) than injured. The only serious money would be in punitive damages, and it's hard to know whether an attorney would deem recovering such to be likely enough to be worth investing his time in the matter.
But I wish I could just hire somebody to do the case as a matter of pure principle. Those goons had exactly zero basis for anything they did past the point of asking me to stop taking photographs--and they either knew that or should have known it. I don't take kindly to being manhandled and accused of "casing" the place for a later robbery--especially when the latter occurred after they had looked up the blog and seen exactly what my purpose was. (I guess I forgot to mention that part in my narrative. One of the security guys told me of their worry that I was casing the place and might later return with an AK-47 to rob them--which is more than a little paranoid.)
Along those same lines, I should tell you what was, for my money, the most insane moment of the night. Just before the police left and security was to escort me out, Officer Bad-Ass told me (and it was in the security room, so it's presumably on tape), "I don't know exactly what you were doing here, but you're covering up something. I think you were up to no good. NO GOOD. And if you keep it up, you're going to get caught sooner or later." Again, I emphasize that this was after he had looked up this very web site and could see precisely what it was that I was "up to." Moron. I'm pretty sure that the videotape replay will catch me giving off an "I can't believe you're really that stupid" smirk at that point.
For any readers who hope to have a chance meeting with me across the green felt on your next Vegas vacation, here's today's helpful hint: Don't expect to find me at the Cannery.
For the record, here are links to the Nevada statutes that convey detention authority (as listed by Nersesian in his book at pp. 166-172). If you look through them, I think it will become readily apparent that absolutely nothing I did fell even remotely within the criteria that would trigger their right to hold me against my will.
Nevada Revised Statutes 171.126. Arrest by private person.
NRS 171.1235. Gaming licensee may detain persons suspected of having committed felony in gaming establishment.
NRS 465.101. Detention and questioning of person suspected of violating chapter.
Addendum, February 27, 2009
For those being referred to this post from other sites, you might be interested in subsequent developments. Click here to get all the follow-up posts.