What are the procedures for using credit (markers) at a casino?

A marker is an interest-free loan that casinos provide as a standard service to gamblers. To someone who has never used casino credit, markers may seem like the domain of hardcore gamblers, but they’re really quite simple to obtain and a lot more safe and convenient than travelling with a huge wad of cash. Since most casinos won’t cash checks over a certain amount, and since you can’t buy cheques with a credit card, they are the best solution for a player who doesn’t want to be restricted by the paltry amount he can obtain with an ATM card.

In order to play on credit, you have to establish a credit line with a casino by filling out an application form. If you’re planning a trip in advance, you can call the casino (ask for casino credit) and have them mail or fax an application—some casinos also offer credit applications on their Web sites, but this tends to be rare. If you’re already there, you can ask for an application at the cashier’s window, but your line of credit probably won’t be approved immediately—it can take from a few hours to a few days for them to process your application (so it’s best to plan in advance).

The application will request some basic information, most notably bank or investment account numbers (some require a cancelled check). Unlike a credit card application, the amount of credit you’ll be extended is generally no more than you have in the bank, though it’s entirely up to the casino if they wish to extend you more or less. In most casinos, your credit line will be established in conjunction with a player’s club account, and you may be required to join the player’s club in order to be considered for credit.

Once you’ve established a line of credit, you’ll be able to request a marker at the casino. You can generally do this at any table or at the cashier’s window, though it’s not necessary (or typical) to go to the window unless you’re taking out cash to play the slots. Fundamentally, a marker is an interest-free loan against your bank account. If you fail to pay it at the casino, it will be drafted directly out of the account(s) you indicated on the application.

Taking out a marker at a table is a fairly straightforward procedure: you present your card and tell the dealer you want to take out a marker. The dealer will call the pit boss, whom you’ll need to tell how much you want to borrow. The pit boss will then check the computer (or call the cashier’s cage) to verify your line of credit. If you check out, you’ll be issued cheques so that you can begin playing, and a lammer (a plastic disk indicating the amount of the loan) will be placed by your spot at the table. Before long, the pit boss will return with a document for you to sign, acknowledging the loan, and remove the lammer.

You can generally buy back your marker right there at the table, if you’re able. When you’re through playing, tell the dealer you’d like to buy back your marker—he’ll signal the pit boss. If you’ve had a good run, you should be able to buy back your marker with cheques in the same amount—but if you’ve lost a bit, you can buy it back with a combination of cheques and/or cash. The pit boss should return to you the document you’d signed so that it’s not processed.

If you don’t buy back your marker, it will be sent to the cashier’s office. The specific time this happens will vary—at the end of the shift or with the regular drop—but it will generally be set aside for as long as you remain at the table. The cashier’s office will likewise hold your marker for a while (the time varies by casino, also by the amount of money) before depositing it in the bank.

A few tips on using markers:

  • Whenever possible, buy back your marker with cheques, and do so before exchanging cheques for cash. This will make sure that your loan amount isn’t taxed as winnings.
  • Treat markers you’ve bought back as credit card receipts—they contain all the information a thief needs to withdraw cash from your bank account. Rather than shredding it, write “void” over your signature and keep the marker with your financial documents, just in case it’s mistakenly processed.
  • If you take out more than one marker, consider consolidating them. Most casinos will process small markers the next business day, but may hold larger amounts for up to a week to give you the opportunity to pay them back on-site.
  • There’s no repercussions for allowing a marker to run through your bank account. Though the casinos prefer you to pay on-site, and it’s certainly preferable to travelling back home with a wad of cash, it will not affect your credit rating with the casinos.
  • It’s possible, though quite a nuisance for the staff, to pay back part of a marker. Fundamentally, you pay off one marker with another for a lesser amount, plus the difference in cash or cheques. There really is no reason for doing this.
  • Of paramount importance, don’t mess around with markers. Don’t try to stiff the casino, and make sure the funds in your accounts remain adequate to pay them off. Most casinos subscribe to Central Credit, which is as pervasive and far less forgiving than typical credit bureaus. One slip, and you’ll find yourself unable to play, or even book a room, in casinos around the world.