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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: 5 + 5? How about 17 x 17?

30 November 2015

Dear Mark: I was amused by the question from Mary P. Here is why.

At the Windsor Casino, I went to the executive office to ask the similar question on claiming a Grand Prize in the Car Promotions that they hold every couple of months. The nice thing about Windsor is that if you win the car or cash it is all tax-free in Canada. Anyway, they still require the same photo ID protocol as you described but they add one additional step.

The casino manager stated that Ontario Law requires a competency question be asked to the winner. It's a simple math question that has to be figured out w/o the assistance of pen, paper or device. If you fail, they will hold the money until you comeback and try again, or, appoint a custodian to come with you to answer the question for you.

He said, “It is the Government's Do Gooders at work trying to make sure a deranged winner does not go off the deep end winning all that money.” How answering math question can give a conclusion that someone is mentally competent is beyond me. Jerry


Your e-mail, Jerry, told me something I was unaware of. I have been to Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino multiple times. Then again, outside of expending a few dollars on a new machine, I steer clear of slots because of the high house hold. Besides, when I go to a casino now, it is seldom to gamble, but instead to circumnavigate the casino floor and scrutinize table limits and paytables, and to survey the demographics of players. For research purposes, of course, the buffet offering also makes that list.

Employees on the inside had also better know their math. When I worked the Club Cal Neva in Reno, one of the owners, Warren Nelson, would walk by the roulette table and quiz you on a payout. Fortunately for those of us who came to work half awake, it was always “What’s 17 x 17?” If you didn’t know, you were sent upstairs to deal 50¢ blackjack, where there were plenty of deranged players on that game who were swimming in the deep end.

One more thing, Jerry. Just because Canada will hand you a tax-free jackpot, do not think you are off the hook regarding your tax liability. In the eyes of the IRS, any winnings, from whatever form of gambling worldwide, are taxable and must be reported as "Other Income,” on Form 1040 of the US Individual Tax Return, even if the casino does not issue you a W-2G.

Dear Mark: I bet the casinos do not care if someone uses an expired driver's license to drive there and lose a lot of money. Besides, why can't a driver's license be expired and serve as a valid ID? It has only expired for driving. The person's dates of birth, photo, address, etc., are all still accurate and legit. People don't drive around inside a casino. They GAMBLE! Don M.

I hear you, Don, but the gaming industry is perhaps the most-regulated business in America, with casino operators living by the strictest rules and regulation of any industry that I am aware of.

I am sure that there is some regulation, somewhere, which states the word “valid.” Sure, I can see visual verification being flouted by some slot employee counting out Benjamins for you, but no casino operator would jeopardize a precious gaming license by paying off a slot jackpot by letting an expired driver’s license slide.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “They clinked their glasses to the glorious game of "Nap", lighted cigars, and fell to shuffling and dealing the cards.” – Jack London, The Sea Wolf (1904)
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.