'Too drunk' Calif. gambler sues Las Vegas casino over $500,000 debt


LAS VEGAS -- 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 arrived drunk at the Downtown Grand casino and was plied with free alcoholic drinks while he gambled, according to the suit filed Feb. 18 in Nevada state court for Clark County.

Starting the night of Jan. 30 and running into the next afternoon, Johnston played pai gow and blackjack for 17 hours and was served about 20 drinks, according to the lawsuit.

“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.

Before arriving in Las Vegas, the Ventura, California, resident 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 from allowing visibly drunk guests from continuing to gamble.

After leaving the gambling 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, which described his mental state while he was gambling as a “blackout period.”

A spokeswoman for the Downtown Grand casino declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Downtown Grand opened in November in downtown Las Vegas, where some of the city's original casinos are located. The larger resort casinos are on The Strip a few miles away.

The lawsuit accuses the casino of negligence, reckless endangerment, fraud and other wrongdoing.

It seeks to have a court declare Johnston's $500,000 gambling debt to the casino null and void, and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.