California Man Sues Downtown Grand for Drunken Gambling Losses

A Southern California businessman and retiree is suing the Downtown Grand Casino in Las Vegas for allowing him to gamble when drunk. Mark Johnston claims he was “blackout drunk” while playing blackjack during a Super Bowl weekend visit to Las Vegas. While being so inebriated he claims he couldn’t remember what happened, the SoCal man says the casino’s management loaned him $500,000 to continue gambling.

If Johnston’s story is corroborated, the Downtown Grand could find itself facing legal trouble. Nevada laws make it illegal to allow visibly inebriated gamblers to continue gambling. Nevada laws also make it illegal to continue to comp alcohol to those who are visibly drunk. The Nevada State Gaming Board is investigating the charges.

Those familiar with the Downtown Grand would know it under the name “Lady Luck”. For most of its history since it opened in 1985, that was the name of the casino. The casino was bought in 2000 by Isle of Capri, in 2005 by the Henry Brent Company, and in 2007 by the CIM Group. The casino had received complaints from city officials in recent years, and arrangements were made for innovations in 2011. Those renovations were finished in October 2013, when the casino opened as the New Downtown Grand, a boutique casino.

Plaintiff Explains His Drunkenness

Sean Lyttle, the lawyer for Johnston, said their lawsuit is for “sullying” his client’s name. Lyttle says his client played pai gow and blackjack for hours, while the casinos continue to serve him liquor. They also continued to negotiate new loans to keep his session going.

Mr. Johnston, the plaintiff in the case against the casino, says he arrived in town on the Thursday of Super Bowl week. On the way from the airport to the hotel, the 52-year old retiree and his date were drinking. At a dinner on the town with friends, he continued having drinks. Sometime during the dinner, he claims he blacked out from inebriation.

Johnston says he was comped dozens of drinks when he got to the Downtown Grand Casino. Meanwhile, the management comped him hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit. In his storyline, it was Saturday before he drank off his drunken state. Even then, he didn’t know how much money he had lost until the next day, Super Bowl Sunday.

Stopped Paying the Gambling Debt

It was then that Mark Johnston put a stop on the payment of the markers. Johnston, who made a fortune in a Southern California car dealership, intends on proving his case through eyewitness testimony and through video surveillance tapes of his playing session.

When asked by a reporter about the incident, Lyttle said, “It’s certainly an extraordinary case. This is not a story that I’ve ever heard before, where someone was blackout intoxicated where they couldn’t read their cards, and yet a casino continued to serve them drinks and issue them more markers. It’s a very heavy-handed and unusual approach that we haven’t seen in this town in a long time.

Downtown Grand’s Counter-Suit

Meanwhile, the Downtown Grand is counter-suing Johnston, saying he is shirking his gaming debts. The Downtown Grand is a new casino, having opened only in November 2013 in an old section of downtown Las Vegas.

New Jersey Recognizes Problem Gambling Month

The State of New Jersey made March their “problem gambling month” and their officials want gamblers to know about it. New Jersey Lottery CEO Carol Hedinger said the state lottery wants to grow their business through responsible playing–not gambling addiction.

Don Hallcom of the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health says the key to combating problem gambling is to identify its symptoms. For that reason, raising awareness is important.

New Jersey Official Explains Problem Gambling

Hallcom gave a quick list of ways to spot compulsive gambling, saying that it includes “gambling until you have no more cash in your pockets, chasing your losses to win back money you lost, growing debts and unpaid bills, needing financial help from others because of gambling, selling personal or family items to finance gambling, and gambling alone and longer than you intend.

Responsible gamblers have a bankroll. A bankroll is an amount of disposable cash which you can afford to lose, usually used for discretionary expenses and entertainment. Responsible players use this bankroll to fund their gambling. Experts say a player should never spend more than 5% to 10% of their bankroll on a gambling session, though some say 20% is a legitimate loss limit, too.

Basic Money Management

Even if someone gamblers more than that percentage in a single session, real money players who are in control of their gambling never gamble more than their bankroll. If you lose that cash, you walk away from the table.

If you forgotten from high school economics class what “disposable income” is, it’s the money you have left over after you pay all your bills for the month. That includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities, gas, food, and other essential items.

A person who gambles away money which is meant to pay for one of those bills is, by definition, a problem gambler and needs to get help. The state of New Jersey offers a number of resources for people who want help.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on,, and

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