Funny Business – The Strangest US Gambling Stories of 2023
Hamster race betting. A proposal at the World Poker Tour. A bat in a hotel. 8,000 Maryland license plates linking to a Philippines offshore casino site. A Florida man winning a women’s poker tournament.
These are just a few of the uniquely strange stories this year from the world of U.S. gambling. Here is our deep dive into the worst, the weirdest, and the wackiest gambling-related incidents of 2023.
What Happens in Vegas
As usual, if you’re looking for the best gambling stories to tell – where else to start but Las Vegas?
The Nevada casinos of Sin City are a legendary hub of the weird and wonderful, and 2023 was no exception.
July was the first really notable month of the year for absolutely bizarre Las Vegas stories, with a couple of real doozies.
The month kicked off with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police arresting a man for allegedly driving his dirt bike at high speed through several major casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.
He allegedly did wheelies and other stunts up and down casino escalators in front of shocked members of the public. The kicker? The man was arrested wearing a shirt that read “ride til the f*cking wheels fall off”, which seems it could apply as much to the man’s life as his biking activities.
Less than four days after that incident, another man took a Harrah’s Hotel & Casino poker table for a ride by literally gyrating naked on top of it.
Earlier that evening, Brian Danilczyk of West Babylon, New York, had also launched an unprovoked attack on a one-legged man outside the nearby Flamingo.
Unsurprisingly, Danilczyk was reported to be in an intoxicated state at the time, telling officers he couldn’t remember fighting the one-legged man, or why he took his clothes off to dance on a poker table.
Sin City Nights
The rest of the year also continued to provide interesting Las Vegas stories. In August, a family filed a lawsuit over a late 2022 incident in which they found a live bat in their room at the New York-New York Hotel.
The family were forced to take rabies vaccinations after staff at the hotel, operated by MGM Resorts International, disposed of the bat upon reporting – meaning it could not be tested for the potentially deadly rabies virus.
The family is claiming $15,000 in damages from their unfortunate experience.
August also saw a high-rolling gambler pay to post offensive messages about a Las Vegas casino employee on Resorts World’s giant, building-sized screen.
After being denied access to Wynn Resorts’ Wynn XS Nightclub by a manager named as Niko Samarxhiu, the high-rolling player and his party went to Zouk at Resorts’ World instead. While there, the gambler paid to have the message “FOOD STAMPS FOR NIKO” put up on Resorts Worlds’ billboard.
August also ended with a bang, literally, when a retired police officer shot himself in the leg while adjusting his trousers on the gaming floor of the Horseshoe Casino. Luckily, he survived with no long-term injuries.
Speaking of the Horseshoe, in 2023 the casino was involved in an event that shows just how far some people will go to be involved with the high-stakes luxury world of Las Vegas gambling.
In September, it was revealed that Rob Mercer, of Vallejo, California, fraudulently claimed to have terminal cancer in order to raise funds to enter the World Series of Poker Main Event that was held at Caesars Entertainment’s Horseshoe in July.
The scam saw Mercer amass $12,500 in donations via GoFundMe before his lies were revealed, and the platform refunded those who had donated.
AP “Sweet Lou” Garza won a cool $1.3 million at the Pot-Limit Omaha Championship event, and then lived up to his nickname by proposing to his girlfriend live at the table afterwards.
Florida Man and Hamster Betting
Outside of Las Vegas, one of the most memorable headlines of the year was a simple but evocative one.
Florida Man Wins Women’s Poker Tournament. Which basically says it all.
If you did need to know more, the man in question was bearded 70-year-old David Hughes of Daytona, FL.
He took advantage of a Florida state law that bans gender-based discrimination at entertainment venues for any reason.
The ostensibly all-women poker game at Hard Rock Hollywood was thus legally open for any male brave enough to enter. Hughes did, beating out 80 women to claim the $5,555 top pot prize – despite half-a- dozen players ganging up to target him throughout the play.
Two other stories also stood out over the year. In one, internet detectives discovered that the default Maryland vehicle license plate issued from 2012 to 2016, of which some 800,000 were issued, were being driven around with a link to a Philippines-based offshore casino on them.
The plates originally came with a patriotic link to www.starspangled200.org, celebrating the 200-year anniversary of Marylander Francis Scott Key authoring the U.S. national anthem.
However, at some point after 2016, the domain registration for that site expired, leading to its takeover by a Philippines online casino affiliate. The link is now fixed.
Live hamster racing, broadcast on Twitch and available to bet on via its own proprietary cryptocurrency Hams. The stream proved bizarrely popular, garnering tens of thousands of views in just a couple of weeks from launch.
Just like the life span of your average hamster, though, some things sadly burn brightly, but not for long. As of the time of writing, Hamsters.gg has not broadcast any races for three months.
Will it return in 2024? Stranger things have certainly happened in the world of gambling, so we wouldn’t rule it out.