No High Rollers Allowed: Stoned Marijuana Users Cannot Gamble In Nevada

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In the grand scheme of American sin, Nevada is the only state in the nation where both bingo tourists and the truly depraved can literally go for broke. It is here that adult citizens have the freedom to blow college funds, engage in a full menu of pay-to-pork activities and even purchase marijuana without relying on a shady street dealer out behind the Bellagio.

To some, especially those folks living by the God-fearing philosophies of the Bible Belt, Nevada is a village of heathens capitalizing on the servants of the devil. But this isn’t exactly true. It seems the state has mustered up enough moral fiber to prohibit stoned cannabis users from going buck wild at the roulette wheel.

It was just last week that the Nevada Gaming Commission amended its rule on gambling-while-intoxicated to include overly enthusiastic consumers of the state’s newly legal cannabis trade. The updated policy prohibits casinos from allowing the super stoned to place bets… or have any fun at all. People who appear “visibly intoxicated,” from cannabis (perhaps blazing red eyes and uncontrollable laughter are two primary indicators) should not be allowed to gamble or consume alcoholic beverages, the five-member commission determined.

“It’s not smart to allow impaired people to gamble,” Chairman Tony Alamo told Las Vegas FOX-affilate KVVU. “Previously, we used the words ‘intoxication,’ and intoxication sometimes gives the feeling of just alcohol … We want to make it crystal-clear across the board under all regulations that ‘impairment’ is not just alcohol; it’s being impaired by drugs.”

This tweak in casino law comes just about a year after the state officially launched its recreational marijuana market. It is a green scene that is generating in upwards of $35 million a month, according to a recent report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Although the term “intoxicated” is extremely broad, since it can deal with the overly-ambitious consumption of substances ranging from alcohol to illegal drugs, the commission says it wanted to ensure that there was no question that high rollers are not excluded.

Now that the rule has passed, casino staff may have to go through a training update in order to extend the proper response to those patrons suspected of being under the influence of marijuana. There is no word yet on exactly what this training will entail. As it stands, there is no effective method for gauging cannabis impairment. And unlike alcohol, marijuana use is not synonymous with raucous behavior. Perhaps casinos will lean on the Seinfeld method when it comes to sizing up drug users, carefully monitoring whether a patron exercises the extensive use of slang or the word “man.”

This change in policy has been a hot topic of discussion since last summer. It was then that gaming officials first voiced concerns about what happens when someone is “impaired from marijuana intoxication and continue to gamble?” Even the American Gaming Association got in on the conversation. Last year, the organization hosted an event intended to promote responsible gaming in this new world where marijuana is sold legally in a manner similar to beer.

But make no mistake about it — keeping an eye out for intoxicated gamblers is serious business in Nevada. Any casino that knowingly allows a high patron to continue placing wagers can get into a lot of trouble. An incident two years ago involving an intoxicated gambler resulted in the Rampart Casino being slapped with a $25,000 fine.

With around 42 million tourists a per year coming in to Las Vegas alone, maybe even more now that marijuana is fully legal, casino officials say they had to adjust the policy to account for the possibility of stoned gamblers.

“Decades ago, you would never think that anybody who was impaired was from anything but alcohol. Not anymore,” Alamo said. “Society changes, Las Vegas changes and we change with it.”