Casinos are meant to encourage an atmosphere of relaxation and fun. To facilitate this atmosphere, many casinos focus on maximizing hospitality. Free drinks are one way casinos try to enhance the customer experience. Unfortunately, providing complimentary casino drinks is fraught with liability issues.
Definition Of DRAM Shop Laws
If a customer becomes excessively drunk and causes harm to a third-party, under DRAM shop laws, the business that sold the alcoholic beverages is held responsible. The most common form of a DRAM shop lawsuit is a third-party suing a bar after a patron of the bar attacked the third-party.
These laws hold businesses responsible for the alcohol consumption of their patrons. However, they don’t absolve the drunk patron from liability, they just force shared liability between the drunk patron and the establishment that served the alcohol.
Where These Laws Exist
Various forms of DRAM shop laws exist in nearly every state. The most casino-friendly state in the United States, Nevada, does not have a statutory alcohol liability law. However, Nevada does have a third-party alcohol law. This third-party law only covers minors under age 21. Lack of DRAM laws in Nevada is justified via the argument that intoxicated offenders should be the only ones held responsible for their actions. Other states do not argue and have passed DRAM legislation.
Casino Customer Relationship
Casinos thrive on wild reputations. Their business models encourage excess, excitement, and fun. Complimentary casino drinks are just one way these businesses create their atmosphere. Customer’s do not visit casinos for a dreary experience, lavishness is expected.
DRAM laws can encroach upon the casino customer relationship. Lack of formal laws, while working to avoid overconsumption of alcohol by patrons, gives a casino more freedom to control its own environment. To avoid negligence, a casino should stop serving drinks to someone who has become visibly drunk and rowdy.
Serving Alcohol In A Casino
The gaming industry is a particularly complicated area to apply DRAM laws. Casino drinks are often served by inexperienced staff, the size and layout of many casinos encourage unmonitored movement by patrons, and free drinks while gambling is a tradition. These issues separate casinos from bars, restaurants, etc. Casinos and alcohol have a complicated, nuanced relationship.
According to a study in Hospitality Review, in 1995, 213 gambling businesses sold over $620 million in beverages. About 56% of the $620 million consisted of complimentary beverages. Free drinks are commonplace in casinos and are often integral to a gambling environment.
The environment of a profitable casino is designed with fantasy in mind. Alcohol and food add to the fantasy and encourage fun and a longer stay. By itself, beverage revenue can amount to millions upon millions of dollars. Without the ability to serve a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, casinos could suffer massive financial losses and possible closure.
Complimentary Drink Policy In Casinos And Lawsuits
Most casinos actively take steps to prevent the creation of overly intoxicated customers. Alcohol awareness training for those serving and selling alcohol, prevention of minors from entering certain areas of a casino, etc. are some methods used to prevent excessive alcohol consumption. Varying by state, DRAM laws aren’t necessary for casinos if casino operators work to enable safe drinking standards.
Many casino operators recognize that too lax of a drinking policy can be destructive. Intoxicated customers can easily become abusive, loud, and difficult to control. This is not good for business and can upset other patrons. Some methods used to slow down intoxication include limiting one drink per customer within a certain time frame, reducing drink portion size, and requiring authorization from a manager if too much alcohol is requested. The correct drinking policy will mitigate many of the issues resulting from free drinks.
To maintain a safe atmosphere and avoid lawsuits, reducing the occurrence of over-intoxicated patrons at a casino is important. Generally viewed as a separate class under DRAM shop laws, casinos have a complex relationship with alcohol. Lawsuits against a casino, arguing DRAM shop law violations, often fall apart once the unique environment of a casino is acknowledged.