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November 23, 2017

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Holding the house accountable: Veteran lawyer represents gamblers in the casino town

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L.E. Baskow

Attorney Bob Nersesian defends gamblers in lawsuits against casinos.

On Twitter, he goes by “Casino Nemesis.”

But Bob Nersesian insists he’s just a normal lawyer, looking out for people who feel they’ve been cheated by the house.

Known in professional circles as a go-to attorney for gamblers, Nersesian has operated a family law firm for nearly 25 years in downtown Las Vegas.

Representing mostly car dealerships and auto salespeople, he and his wife, Thea, initially saw Las Vegas as a “nice place” to raise their three children and quietly retire.

But in 1995, three years later after moving here, Nersesian took his first case against a casino, representing a card-counter who had allegedly been roughed up by security. Such a lawsuit was unheard of at the time, Nersesian said. “My colleagues told me, ‘It’s a casino, Bob, you’re never going to win.’ ”

Nersesian said he and his client settled with the casino for $15,000. From then on, he was dedicated to fighting similar cases.

More than 20 years later, Nersesian has helped open the eyes and affect the policies of casinos across the valley. The veteran gaming attorney sat down with The Sunday to explain his dealings with the industry and his goals going forward.

Is it possible to do what you do and still have friends in the gaming industry?

Oh, yeah. I live in town; how can I not?

So casinos don’t see you as the enemy?

Casinos aren’t above recognizing when somebody goes off the reservation. My perspective could save them tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. And by remaining social with me and not being antagonistic, I think it’s better for everybody involved.

To get to trial and through trial is a six-figure expense for those guys and their insurance companies. I’m not suggesting that anybody should succumb to blackmail on the part of a lawyer. If they think their case is right, then convince me. I’ve walked away a couple of times. But if you’re willing to meet me and deal with me and we can be frank and honest about what the law is and what happened, you get to save that $100,000 because, at least from my practice to date, I would say no reasonable offer is refused.

Now, from their end, they’d say they’ve made hundreds of reasonable offers that were refused. The flip side of that is that I didn’t think they were reasonable, and I have the jury history to prove it. ... On actual trials, I think I’m 12 and 2. That’s on casino-security abuse, and it includes a cop case in there, too.

How often do you get cases?

By 2011, my phone was ringing three times a day. It still goes on, but a lot of calls are weeded out because they wouldn’t make a good civil suit. Sometimes people will say, “I saw you in the paper,” or “I saw you on TV, and I was beat up.” But they were beat up because they stole a drink or did something illegal.

You don’t have free reign just because you’re a member of the public. Nor do casinos. Somebody has to approach this from a legal perspective. Just because you end up at the south end of casino security, doesn’t mean you’re innocent. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re guilty, either.

What other clients do you represent?

I’m an automotive attorney representing car dealers and manufacturers as well. I’m partners with my wife. But the majority of my clients are people suing casinos.

And most of them settle outside of court?

Oh yeah, the huge majority do. My 12-and-2 record, those are just trials. Trials are rare.

What has your impact been on casinos?

I hope it has been huge. I’ve seen some feedback that it has been. One thing is, I get invited to industry symposiums to speak to the casino industry by the casino industry, to teach them how not to do this stuff. I’d like to think that’s a pretty good indicator.

What legacy do you hope to leave when it’s all said and done?

Well, it may be pretty close to being all said and done, because I’m 58, and I’m working 70 hours a week. I have two books under my belt; I have other things I can do. And while I love practicing law, I don’t love every part of it.

What don’t you like?

Being right and losing. Although I really enjoy being wrong and winning.

Has that happened?

Yeah.

But you’d rather be right and win?

Yes — that’s most of the time. I don’t think I’ve ever been wrong on a casino case and won. But I’ve been right on a casino case and lost.

They are sometimes tougher to face. There are a couple of judges who have issued orders that generally have favored the casinos.

Then there are other judges who absolutely get it. They can look at something and say, “You can’t do that; there isn’t even a question there. You took someone into custody for no reason. That’s wrong and you’re going to pay for it.”

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