If, as rocker Tom Petty puts it, even the losers get lucky sometimes, then the reverse is also true in Atlantic City where even the winners end up as losers sometimes.
Casinos have seized nearly $70,000 in jackpots won in recent months by gamblers who signed up for the state's self-exclusion list, requiring the casinos to keep them out, usually because of a compulsive gambling problem.
But the gamblers sneaked inside anyway, gambled, won, and got caught, only to see the casinos seize their winnings. Casinos could be fined each time it happens.
"The Division of Gaming Enforcement continues to enforce compliance with the regulations to prevent individuals from gambling if they appear on the self-exclusion list," said David Rebuck, the division's acting director. "Individuals who have placed themselves on the list have signed an agreement that all winnings are subject to forfeiture. By removing the incentive to gamble, the division supports the efforts of self-excluded persons to address their gambling problems."
The biggest case involved a player who won a jackpot of nearly $54,000 at Bally's Atlantic City in April. The patron, identified in paperwork filed by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement only as "GSD," signed up for the state's self-exclusion list in January 2003, requesting to be banned from the Atlantic City casinos for life. That prompted the state to notify all Atlantic City casinos that GSD was to be kept out of the casinos, and was ineligible to win anything.
On April 17, 2011, GSD played poker for three hours, and ended up winning a jackpot that, together with the gambling chips in his or her possession, totaled $53,933. Due to the size of the jackpot, Bally's security asked for identification, and quickly determined GSD was on the self-exclusion list, and therefore ineligible to win the jackpot.
A similar instance happened at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in February, 2011. A patron identified only as "YZ" had signed up for the self-exclusion list for a period of five years starting in September 2007. All the city's casinos were notified.
On Feb. 19, 2011, "YZ" played Baccarat for four hours before being flagged by Borgata security as a self-excluded gambler. They seized $13,228 in chips that YZ had.
Bally's also faces a second accusation of allowing patron "MS" to gamble on May 23, 2011, winning $675. But MS had signed up for the self-exclusion list for one year on Aug. 11, 2010, and thus was ineligible to win anything.
MS had been betting $200 to $300 per hand at blackjack, and had used a credit card to obtain four cash advances to buy gambling chips. MS also had an additional 10 requests for cash advances on the credit card rejected before being detected by casino security.
The casinos face possible monetary fines for failing to prevent the self-excluded gamblers from playing in the casinos.
Joe Lupo, the Borgata's senior vice president of operations, said the casino supports the self-exclusion law and does its best to make sure people on the list are kept from gambling. But with the thousands of people that pass through each day, it can be challenging to ensure that no one ever violates the law, he added.
Bally's did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Bally's also faces a separate fine in an unrelated case for allegedly failing to fully staff its security posts on numerous occasions, according to the gaming enforcement division.
The money seized from the gamblers will now be split between programs to treat compulsive gambling, and a state fund that helps pay for transportation and prescription drugs for senior citizens.