A California man who lost $500,000 in 17 hours gambling at a
Las Vegas casino was so drunk he could not remember the
episode after waking up in his hotel room, said a lawsuit
filed on his behalf that seeks to erase the debt.
Mark Johnston, 52, arrived drunk at the Downtown Grand casino
and was plied with free alcoholic drinks while he gambled,
according to the suit filed on February 18 in Nevada state
court for Clark County.
After leaving the gaming tables, Johnston went to his hotel
room and woke up the next day with no memory of his time at
the tables, stated the lawsuit, depicting his mental state
while gambling as a "blackout period."
Johnston's attorney, Sean Lyttle, described him as a
self-made millionaire who previously owned a number of car
dealerships and was involved in real estate development.
Starting on the night of January 30 and running into the next
afternoon at the casino in downtown Las Vegas, a few miles
from The Strip, Johnston played pai gow and blackjack for 17
hours and was served about 20 drinks, according to the
Lyttle said he has never heard of a gambler in Las Vegas
being allowed to lose such a large amount while intoxicated.
"Mr. Johnston, an experienced gambler, was dropping chips on
the floor, confusing chip colors and slurring his speech
badly, and he was unable to read his cards or set his hands
properly," the lawsuit stated.
The description of Johnston's behavior came largely from Eric
Weis, a bartender at the casino who had previously befriended
Johnston and sat beside him at one point during the gambling
episode, Lyttle said.
Weis has since stopped working at the casino, where he felt
pressured by management over the incident, the attorney said.
Before his arrival in Las Vegas, Johnston, a resident of
Ventura, had been given credit in the amount of $250,000, and
that amount was increased while he was gambling so he
ultimately lost $500,000, the lawsuit said.
Nevada gaming regulations prohibit casinos to allow visibly
drunk guests to continue to gamble.
A spokeswoman for the Downtown Grand declined to comment on
the lawsuit, which accuses the casino negligence, reckless
endangerment, fraud and other wrongdoing.
It seeks to have a court declare Johnston's $500,000 gambling
debt null and void, as well as unspecified compensatory and
Lyttle said he expects the casino will file a countersuit
seeking payment of the debt, after failing to have it
withdrawn from Johnston's bank account.
"I'm frankly baffled by the way this was handled and all I
can really think to chalk it up to is inexperience," Lyttle
said. "This is a casino that opened its doors in November."