The Bear Growls: The tragedy of Arelia Taveras

Areila Taveras 

This beautiful, intelligent woman’s life was ruined by gambling addiction. Regardless of how we feel about her lawsuit, hers is a powerful story. I see casinos take advantage of addicts, drunks, and other sick people every day. It happens far more than the general “casino hugging” public wants to believe.

I remember a long time ago, an advantage player friend said something to the effect that once casinos are in everyone’s face, there will be a backlash against the industry. We might have reached that point. Arelia Taveras will be the perfect spokesperson for her cause — young, female, attractive, intelligent, well-spoken, and with a good career before her addiction ruined her life. I think her lawsuit has little chance of success, but it will be interesting to watch.

Her website is interesting, with links to some of the pleadings in her case. I wish her well.


Added Jun 22, 2008:

I wish casinos could somehow develop social responsibility and a corporate conscience, if there is such a thing. But I don’t know how to achieve that and be consistent with my goal of extracting as much money from them as possible. I think that advantage players taking money from casinos goes hand in hand with the casinos being socially and morally deficient.

In the extreme, society would probably be better off if casinos did not exist at all. Would I, or most of my advantage-player friends be better off? Probably not. We rely on casino incompetence and employee indifference to allow us to extract money. If casinos were well-run with many employees who cared about their employer, we would have fewer opportunities. Would I like casinos to be made illegal? Definitely not. I don’t think alcohol or drugs should be illegal either, though I neither drink nor use drugs. Alcohol prohibition was tried and was a miserable failure. The “war on drugs” still goes on, and has been a miserable failure. As a Libertarian, I fully support the right of casinos to exist. But their greed disgusts me.

In Nevada and presumably in other jurisdictions, we have regulations prohibiting casinos from allowing drunks or other obviously impaired people from playing. But we all know these regulations are almost never enforced. In the rare cases they are enforced, there is no punishment to the offending casino or its employees for violating the regulations. I’m aware that most of Arelia’s problems were in New Jersey, but I am more familiar with Nevada regulations. When a player is falling asleep at the table, it’s time for the casino to stop further play.

Nevada Gaming regulation 5.011 Grounds for disciplinary action.

10. Failure to conduct gaming operations in accordance with proper standards of custom,decorum and decency, or permit any type of conduct in the gaming establishment which reflects or tends to reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the gaming industry.

Most large industries have regulations which are enforced, or at least a reasonable effort is made to enforce them. A glaring exception is the casino industry. The regulations already exist, such as the nice, simple one above. The problem is the lack of enforcement. Maybe the answer is an extension of what New Jersey has tried, but at which it has failed: A Gaming agent always on duty in large casinos. But instead of just sitting in a booth at the large casinos, the agent would patrol the casino. In jurisdictions with many casinos, agents would go through small casinos on a regular basis. The agents’ primary duty would be to protect the public, not the casino. The agent, not the pit boss, would be the arbiter making the decision whether a patron should be cut off from further play. There would be no need to identify the patron by name; no need to compile lists of cut off patrons, etc.

The tax money spent on this enforcement activity would probably be less than the tax money now spent on the results of compulsive gamblers’ activities, including prosecuting their embezzlements, thefts, etc. In fact, casinos should be taxed to specifically pay for enforcement. After all, their refusal to act responsibility and their routinely thumbing their noses at the regulations has escalated the problem.

Whether this would work on a practical basis is of course unknown, because it hasn’t been tried. Having another layer of government employees goes against my beliefs of less government intrusion in our lives, but I think the casino industry has brought this on itself. Perhaps there could be a group of volunteers to handle the patrols, who would call enforcement agents when there is a dispute as to whether a patron should be cut off. There could be several different approaches.

The current system is undoubtedly broken. We have the casinos, who benefit the most from allowing compulsive gamblers to continue to play, entrusted with the task of stopping them. This is an irreconcilable conflict of interest. It is telling that in Arelia’s case, the casino executive with a conscience who tried to get her to stop playing, told her he could lose his job for making that suggestion to her. If the “responsible gaming” nonsense spouted by Harrah’s and other casino operators is to be believed, that executive should have been commended by his bosses for trying to help a troubled patron, not be in fear of being fired for doing the right thing.

I am not suggesting huge changes in the way casinos operate –- just that the existing laws and regulations be reasonably enforced, with appropriate penalties for casinos and casino employees who flout them. Getting cut off from further play might have served as a wake-up call (no pun intended) that might have saved Arelia, and might save countless others.



  1. This is an interesting story. The problem with this kind of “backlash” is that the situation calls for casino opponents to get the casinos shut down. Now I don’t see this happening in Vegas so much as riverboat casinos or other petty casinos in other states. You can be a casino critic, but you still like going to casinos. That can’t happen if you push so hard against them that they cease to exist. All you can do is go to the casinos you like and stay away from the ones you don’t. Get the conversation going with other people at the table and grumble with them about how much 6/5 sucks. Don’t talk about percentage and facts, talk about superstition and people will begin to listen.

  2. The problem is that once you open the door then you have all the others. Does a bar then have to keep a record of all the local people in AA? Does the all you can eat restaurant keep at list of all the people in the county who joined Jenny Criag? I usually agree with “The Bear” here not. Yes AT’s story is sad, how about my fight with high cholesterol because the local pizza place still gives me a slice whenever I ask for one?


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