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I-Team: Maine man banned from casino after common mistake at slot machine

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STATEWIDE (WGME) - The I-Team investigates confusion at the casino.

A central Maine man is now banned from a local casino after what he says was an honest mistake.

We discovered you could be taking a gamble, too, if you don't know the law.

Crystal French says she was having a great vacation at the Oxford Casino celebrating her birthday with her husband James, who thought he hit the jackpot.

"I was excited," he said.

James French said the saga started when he sat down to start playing one of the slot machines.

"I probably played 20 minutes or so and I looked down, and I realized there was $680 on the machine," he said.

He decided to cash out, go to breakfast, to the mall, and out to dinner.

"I hit the button. If it tells me I won, I won. I wouldn't have any idea," French said.

When they went back to the casino the next day to see if their lucky streak would continue, they were confronted by casino security.

"Immediately the gentleman [said] 'you're a thief. You're going to be charged with theft,'" he said.

According to an incident report from the Gambling Control Board, another casino patron had been playing the slot machine and inadvertently left $650 on the machine without cashing out.

"I had no idea. He says if you don't pay it back, we're going to charge you with theft," French said.

Oxford Casino declined to answer our questions.

"Until the victim is made whole, it is inappropriate for us to comment further. All of our team members go through extensive guest service training, and are taught to be respectful and caring in all of their interactions," General Manager Jack Sours said in a statement.

"I told the guy, look I'll pay the money back. I don't have it all," James French said.

Documents show they worked out a payment plan and James can't go back until all the money is repaid.

His complaint about how he was treated and questions about the law reached Milt Champion, executive director of the Gambling Control Board.

"He wasn't sure it was actually considered theft in the state of Maine," Champion said.

Champion said in Maine casinos "finders keepers" doesn't apply.

Someone can be charged with theft if he or she refuses to give back the money, he said.

"With all the surveillance coverage we have, we'll have people go out and look for the patron try to find them before they leave," Champion said.

The I-Team found this kind of thing happens several times a month in Maine's two casinos.

We reviewed two years of reports by the detective for the Gambling Control Board.

He reported more than 130 cases of "ticket theft.

In most cases, he said, money was recovered after sending out a "do the right thing letter"

Champion said people may not notice credits left on a machine so it's a good idea to check before you get up or sit down to start playing.

"The numbers are right there in front of you. Just look and make sure that monetary amount is zero," Champion said.

Hollywood casino has the same policy of trying to recover money that belongs to another customer.

A vice president of the company told CBS 13 they'll pursue criminal charges for any ticket theft over $50.

So if do you notice money on the machine, or a cashout voucher on the floor, make sure to let casino staff know.

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