Most people feel safer using credit cards rather than cash on vacation because, if stolen, credit is easier to replace than cash. But you have to turn that strategy on its head on gambling vacations. If you want to play it safe when gambling, always use cash instead of credit.
The more credit you use (or perhaps abuse), the more you have to replace when you get home. For example, if you set a personal loss limit of $400 and blow your $400 in cash, stopping is easier because you’re out of money. But with a $2,000 credit line, after you burn through the first $400, you can still tap into more funds, which can ultimately lead to serious debt trouble.
This section explains the downside of relying on casino credit. But there are also some advantages to casino credit, so we explain how to set it up and when to use that credit in a positive way.
Grasping casino credit
To understand the lure — as well as the danger — of casino credit, you first need to understand it. Casino credit is no different from store credit, something most people take advantage of every day. To make shopping easier, many department stores offer customers a little plastic card with a line of credit. Similarly, the casino offers you a line of credit based on your credit report and the size of your bank account. This line of credit allows you to borrow money from the casino in order to gamble — either because your funds have run out or because you just prefer not to carry cash.
The whole casino industry is designed to make you forget that you’re playing for real money, which is why casinos use chips rather than cash at the tables. And taking the next step — playing against your line of credit — can move you one step further from the harsh reality that eventually you have to pay the piper.
Credit is convenient, yes. But, it’s also a very risky venture. First, access to credit tends to make some people spend more money than they otherwise would — both in gambling and in the real world. But with casino credit, the problem is compounded. If you buy a $300 sander from the local home- improvement center on your credit card and your spouse promptly persuades you that you don’t need that item, you can usually return it and get your $300 back. But when you borrow $300 from your favorite casino and lose it at craps, it’s long gone. Even worse is when you lose that $300, followed quickly by $600 more, and return home with bigger debts than you can handle.
Definitely steer clear of casino credit if you have an impulsive nature. Can’t stop eating potato chips until the bag is empty? Then casino credit may be another bag you don’t want to dip into.
Crediting yourself with an account
Recognizing that borrowing from the casino can lead to gambling debt is a critical step as you consider managing your bankroll. Yet credit can benefit people who are extremely disciplined inside the surrealistic confines of the casino. And casino credit does offer the following clear advantages:
Makes you a prime target for attractive comps (free meals and entertainment, for example)
May lead to invitations to big casino events
Allows you to cash personal checks at the casino cage instead of using the ATM or borrowing on your credit card, which can result in additional service fees
Allows you to gamble without the risk of carrying large amounts of cash
Establishing a line of credit is easier than you may think because the casino doesn’t want to make borrowing money hard for you. You can set up a casino line of credit in one of two ways:
At the cashier’s cage upon arrival Online prior to your visit
Because credit approval may take a few days, visit your preferred casino’s website and fill out an application form in advance. That way your line of credit is available to you as soon as you arrive.
Using markers against casino credit
After you establish your line of credit, don’t expect to get a plastic credit card with the casino logo on the front. Instead, you use markers at the tables to tap into your line of credit. (A marker is basically a check or I.O.U. that you sign at the gaming table.)
Keep this fact in mind as you sign a marker for that next baccarat game: Chips and now markers serve as tools to distance you psychologically from the reality that you’re spending your hard-earned money. And when you don’t have to reach into your wallet when you’re losing, continuing to play is a whole lot easier. If you choose to ignore our advice about sticking to cash while gambling, then be sure you’re constantly aware of where you stand with the house, and never lose sight of the fact that payback will occur before the end of your casino stay.
At the end of your visit, the casino expects you to write a check to cover the cost of any losses you incurred during your visit. If you refuse to pay, the casino has the right to post the outstanding markers with your bank for collection from your account.
You use markers only after you’ve established a line of credit with the casino. And a line of credit is good only at the casino where you applied. In other words, you can’t borrow money at the club across the street unless the same company owns both casinos.
THE TRUE COST OF AN ATM
Don’t like the cut your bank takes when you use the ATM at home? Try using one at a casino! Not only are the odds at a casino stacked against you, but so are the ATM fees. In addition to the standard bank charges for using the ATM, the casino hits you with a stiff fee at the terminal. How can you avoid both fees? Simple: Bring a set amount of cash and spend only what you bring.