published Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Gambler sues, says he lost $500,000 playing drunk

LAS VEGAS — A man who lost $500,000 playing table games at a Las Vegas casino on Super Bowl weekend is trying to get his money back because he was too drunk.

Southern California retiree Mark Johnston is suing the Downtown Grand for loaning him money and allowing him to play while he was blackout drunk.

Nevada law bars casinos from allowing visibly drunk patrons to gamble and from serving them comped drinks.

Johnston's attorney, Sean Lyttle, says the Grand, which opened last November in the old part of Sin City, is countersuing Johnston for trying to shirk his gambling debts. Johnston put a stop-payment order on the markers, or casino credits, the Grand issued, and is also seeking damages from the Grand for sullying his name.

Johnston says he was thoroughly drunk during the hours he spent playing pai gow and blackjack at the Grand.

Grand spokeswoman Amy Maier said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

The state Gaming Control Board is investigating.

"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," Lyttle said. "It's a very heavy-handed and unusual approach that we haven't seen in this town in a long time."

The Super Bowl was held Feb. 2.

Johnston lives in Ventura and made his fortune with a car dealership.

He has been a Las Vegas regular for three decades, and says he came to the Grand during Super Bowl weekend at the invitation of the casino. He traveled with his girlfriend, but did most of his gambling alone. He drank in the limousine from the Las Vegas airport to the Grand on that Thursday and drank more during dinner with friends. The suit alleges that the Grand comped him dozens of drinks while he gambled away hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Johnston says he didn't sober up and learn how much he had lost until Sunday.

Nevada gamblers lost nearly $20 million on Super Bowl bets last month.

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