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How my friend Tom lost $2000 on table games

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Totally pissed off (with the ringing and the buzzer still buzzing), Tom, who originally intended to take his winnings in cash, announced that he wanted a check for his $10,000. The shift manager wasn't happy about that, for the casino's hope and expectation was that Tom would drop much of his winnings back into the slots. In the end, Tom won $10,000 and lost $12,000.

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Tom got his check and departed the casino. Two nights later he was dining with his girl friend at the Four Queens downtown when it suddenly dawned on him that he was doing it all wrong. They quickly finished their meal and he took a taxi back to the Desert Inn. There Tom passed the check into the cashier's cage and requested credit at the tables for the full amount. From table-to-table Tom and his lady went—blackjack, craps, roulette—every time signing markers for credit against his $10,000 check at the tables, all the while accumulating chips. Gambling ostentatiously, but in reality betting small, Tom kept slipping chips to his lady, who shuttled back-and-forth from the tables, cashing them in. When April 15 came around, along with his copy of the casino's W-2G tax form for his $10,000 win, Tom attached Xeroxes of $12,000 in markers. (To buffer his deductions, during the course of the evening he deposited with the cashier another $2,000 in cash for additional credit at the tables.)

Total gambling tax liability: zero (The IRS will allow you to deduct losses only up to your documented winnings, but not a cent more.)

Xeroxes of casino markers are not the only way to prove you were a loser in the casinos. Any gambling losses you can show are applicable against your casino, lottery, or racetrack winnings. The Internal Revenue Service lumps all forms of gambling together, except for the stock market. (Nicolas Darvas once wrote a book entitled Wall Street: The Other Las Vegas.)

In the casino, the only gambling "receipts" available to the player are losing Keno tickets. Of course, you can keep a diary of where you played, what you played, and what you won and lost, but that's a monstrous pain in the ass, and tends to take the fun out of gambling. If you are fortunate enough to win big, and you need proof of gambling losses, the Keno trash cans are a good starting point. Just make sure your Keno tickets don't have coffee stains and cigarette burns. The race track and Off-Track Betting parlors are two other places to collect losing tickets. Be sure that tickets from the race track and betting parlors don't have heel marks. In case of an audit, IRS agents actually check your boxes of losing tickets for any tell-tale heel marks!

Almost everyone today knows about the random number enumerator microchips that controls slot machine payouts, but few know that changing the chip on the "hit" frequency—which can vary from 1 percent to 15 percent—is fairly simple. It's akin to changing the fuse in your fuse box at home. In Nevada, casinos can change RNE chips at will without notifying the Casino Control Board, as long as the new chips were previously approved.

The good news is that the casinos cannot change the frequency on either the Video Poker or Video Blackjack machines.

At one time it was a Federal offense to ship slot machines across state lines into states that banned them as illegal. This is no longer so. In fact, you can legally own an antique slot machine for your den or rumpus room. Check "Coin Machines" in your Yellow Pages to find your friendly local slot machine dealer.

When I was a kid in Brooklyn, there used to be a candy store on every block. Now, in California, Proposition 5 passed, and now all one-hundred-and-one—that's right, a hundred-and-one—Indian tribes are eligible to open casinos up and down the state.

A California gambler will feel like a kid on a block full of candy stores. The Governor strongly opposed video slot machines but, according to the Associated Press, he is now amenable to "an electronic lottery machine that spits out a series of numbers on a slip of paper, rather than dumping coins." Talk about hypocritical bullshit . . .

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