Last week, TikTok creator @ileana.justine posted a video documenting what she called her favorite casino game: “Walking around and collecting all of the leftover cash people leave on their machines and seeing how much I can get.”
This TikTok user’s favorite game could land her in jail. (Image: TikTok)
After half an hour of scouring slots for abandoned cash-out vouchers, she turned up $7.28. The video earned her 4 million views and a possible future indictment.
The practice, called ticket mining, isn’t new. In the age of analog slot machines, it was called silver mining since quarters, not tickets, were the payday. Back then, it could get you kicked out and even permanently banned from casinos. (They decided the penalty on a per-case basis.)
Nowadays, many jurisdictions that allow gaming consider it either a misdemeanor or felony theft, depending on the value of the vouchers.
So far, @ileana.justine is still cranking out TikToks, not license plates, in prison. But in 2004, a Colorado man was reportedly convicted of misdemeanor fraud for using a 76-cent credit left in a slot machine by a previous user. A.J. Werling claims he inserted his own $20 bill, not even realizing the credit was already there.
Werling was fined $500 and forced to perform 24 hours of community service.
“It’s been a nightmare,” he told KDVR-TV/Denver in 2017. “I’m not a criminal. It’s ridiculous. It’s 76 cents … I still have to deal with … having to go over what transpired for jobs, apartments, anything that requires a background check. I have to disclose why I have a gambling theft conviction on my record.”
An abandoned cash-out ticket, or slot voucher, is supposed to be collected by the casino. For 90 days, it remains the property of the person who played the machine just before it was printed out. (Image: Scott Roeben/Vital Vegas)
Finders Keepers is Not the Law
It isn’t common in Nevada, but the state district attorney has previously prosecuted criminal cases based on slot ticket theft.
One of two statutes applies. NRS 205.0832 prohibits someone who “comes into control of lost, mislaid or misdelivered property of another person” and “appropriates that property to his or her own use, or that of another person, without reasonable efforts to notify the true owner.”
NRS 465.070 states that it is unlawful “to claim, collect or take — or attempt to claim, collect or take — money or anything of value in or from a gambling game … without having made a wager.”
Even if a slot ticket is abandoned in a Nevada casino, it still belongs to the person who originally put the money in, not to someone who finds it poking out of a slot machine. Casinos are charged with holding an abandoned voucher for 90 days if the rightful winner returns to collect it.
After that, the voucher expires and becomes unclaimed property. According to a law passed in 2011, the state general fund gets 75% of each abandoned ticket’s win, collected by the Nevada Gaming Control Board every quarter. The casino keeps 25% for administrative costs.
In the fiscal year 2022, Nevada players abandoned $22 million in unclaimed tickets.
As for @ileana.justine, she reassured her fans with the following comment: “Nobody needs to worry. I had my lawyer check into the legality. It wasn’t illegal in the state I was in.”
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