Casino Night could be gone for good

Yale’s popular annual Casino Night may be all played out.

Officials at the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue, which oversees gambling throughout the state, told the News on Monday that it is unlikely the event will take place in the future. Still, when Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges canceled Casino Night on Friday afternoon, the masters of both colleges said they would, for future years, try to obtain a legal exemption from the state law that prohibits casino games.

Students traded roulette wheels for dancing shoes at the “Elite” party.
Daniel Carvalho
Students traded roulette wheels for dancing shoes at the “Elite” party.

DSR spokesman Paul Bernstein said he understood the cancellation of Casino Night was “frustrating,” but emphasized that the DSR cannot approve an activity prohibited by state statutes.

“We have no authority to permit an activity that is no longer lawful within the state,” Bernstein said.

In an interview with the News on Monday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 said he was open to discussions with Yale officials, but was not optimistic about Yale’s chances of obtaining an exemption.

“If they have points they want to bring to our attention, I certainly would be happy to meet with … any official who wanted to speak with me,” Blumenthal said.

Known as the “casino nights law,” the 2003 Act to Repeal Las Vegas Night Games overturned previous statutes that had allowed nonprofit organizations to hold gaming nights to raise money for charity.

DSR officials said it was unclear why it took so long for the act to affect Casino Night, since Casino Night has been a campus staple for years. After the act was passed in 2003, DSR staff informed all of the organizations registered with the state of the new regulations, said Anne Stiver, an attorney at DSR.

“The problem was, some of the organizations never even registered with the division,” Stiver said, “so they kept holding these events without even applying for a permit.”

University spokesman Tom Conroy said it was initially unclear whether the law would apply to events such as Casino Night, during which nothing of value is exchanged in the gaming, but the state government began to clarify the law’s reach in 2004, prompting the DSR to instruct police departments to crack down on such events.

The 2003 act made possession of gaming equipment illegal, a provision that may ultimately doom Casino Night to no more than a fond memory for Yale alumni. Bernstein said prosecuting businesses that rent or sell gaming equipment, such as blackjack tables and roulette wheels, was a more pressing problem for the DSR than regulating small nonprofit events.

Bernstein confirmed that the use of gambling equipment during Casino Night made the event clearly illegal, even if the event may have fallen in a gray area because no money was exchanged at the tables.

Ezra Stiles Student Activities Committee co-Chair Jasper Frank ’10 said Morse and Stiles owned most of the equipment and gambling paraphernalia. It was left over from past Casino Nights, he explained.

The masters of Stiles and Morse colleges said they could not comment on the future of Casino Night until they held further discussions with the University’s Office of the General Counsel.

“This is a complicated legal matter and I simply am not in a position to say what those next steps will be,” Morse College Master Frank Keil said.


  • anon

    perhaps the YDN could dig a little further and explore who pushed for this law and what purpose it serves. is this a law that is actually useful?

  • Anonymous

    @#1: yes. the law is very useful--without it, the division of special revenue might have nothing to do…

  • David

    It was passed in 2003 as an attempt to prevent the opening of new casinos in the state, apparently by removing some of the loopholes in state law that allowed the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to exist. I guess the idea was that because the state permit some casino-style gambling, they couldn't selectively bar new casinos from opening. I assume that it was pushed for by the moralizing set who believe gambling is evil, but I wouldn't be surprised if the existing casinos had a hand in it as well.

  • Tony

    Why don't they go back and prosecute the organizers of last year's event, and continue going back as far as the statute of limitations allows? Start putting some university officials in jail on ridiculous charges, then senselessness of this law will be brought to the light of day. We need to start demanding common sense in legislation.

  • Alum '06

    How on Earth did this ridiculous, radical law get passed in Connecticut?! I'd expect this in Oklahoma, but not here.

    Furthermore, why is this law being enforced? Agencies and police organizations have broad discretion on the enforcement of laws - this is why kids don't get arrested for trespassing when walking through their neighbors yard, why we (normally) don't get stopped for jaywalking (Yale got weird on this one once), and why men don't get arrested for kissing their wives on Sunday (yes, this is illegal in Hartford).

    Legislators: please amend this law to allow benign no-money-exchanged events. What's next - no casino movies so that the minds of our youths aren't corrupted?

    Enforcers: Stop wasting your time and my taxpayer dollars at the expense of my liberty to enjoy myself as I choose by enforcing this useless provision.

    Yale/ACLU: Please test this in the courts.

  • Anonymous

    I wish they'd find some laws that would prohibit SWAY.

  • Dad

    These are hardened criminals. They must be stopped.

  • Recent Alum

    #6: I agree completely, although even if they did, our left-wing courts almost certainly would find a way to interpret this law as unconstitutional…

    But more seriously, liberals are going way too far in now banning fake casino games. I don't agree with most restrictions on gambling, but I can at least understand their rationale. But what is the reason for banning gambling games where no real money is involved?

  • Old Blue

    Well - Yale isn't above the law, even an Law school alum it helm of the enforcing authority. That's good to know.

  • Old Blue '73

    If someone knows a law student, have him/her look up the statutes. According to the table of states's laws in this article ( ), Connecticut allows "Las Vegas" nights for charitable organizations so there must be some exception to the possession of gambling devices applicable to those. You might need to check the definition of charitable organizations to see if a university qualifies and if not create one and pick a charity for next year's event. I have no doubt it can be done if you give it enough lead time to discover and avoid the pitfalls.

    For some background on the Connecticut law, see this article by a Whittier Law School professor (scroll down to the paragraph on Connecticut):

  • Old Blue '73

    I need to correct my last post, which is not up yet for me to read, so I'm going by memory. The Division of Special Revenue website has this FAQ section:

    "How does the repeal of the Games of Chance Act effect public or nonpublic secondary schools, or a group of parents of students attending such a school, or of the teachers or administrators of such a school that annually hold recreational Las Vegas night events in connection with high school after-graduation or after-prom parties?
    The Games of Chance Act governing Las Vegas night events was repealed effective January 7, 2003. Accordingly, nonprofit organizations, including public and nonpublic secondary schools and associated groups of parents or teachers and administrators, are no longer able to conduct Las Vegas night events within the State of Connecticut."

    The law prof's article has this little nugget on Connecticut, as of 2003. Ms. Yee might want to see where gambling tax revenues now rank:

    "Legal gambling has surpassed corporate income tax to become the third largest source of revenue in the state budget, behind the personal income tax and the sales tax."

  • J.H.C.

    Wow -friggin Wow. Did i read that correctly ,that you can't sponsor an event like this if the money is used for charity ? So if you had a contest included it would be okay ? Or something like Bingo