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The House Loses?

They say the house always wins at a casino; however, against all odds, one would wager that a recent case brought in Atlantic County, N.J., seems to be a victory for the gamblers instead.

Back in April, a group of gamblers playing baccarat at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City were astute enough to notice that with each successive hand, the same pattern of cards were dealt. The pattern was so consistent that the gamblers won 41 consecutive hands for $1.5 million worth of winnings.

The casino suspected the gamblers of cheating and approached at least one of them by allegedly waking him in the middle of the night in his hotel room and interrogated him – allegedly dealing him some physical force – and deprived him of food, water and an English interpreter for eight hours.

As it turned out, the gamblers did not cheat. Instead, it was discovered that the casino purchased its cards from a company called Gemaco, which was statutorily obliged to pre-shuffle the cards. Unfortunately for the casino, Gemaco allegedly failed to pre-shuffle the cards, leading to deck after deck of unshuffled cards being used for hand after hand of baccarat.

The casino decided to roll the dice and sued the gamblers for the return of the winnings paid and withheld the winnings it still possessed, saying that gambling regulations require fair odds for both gambler and casino. Of course, the gamblers disagreed, arguing that the fact the casinos crapped out by not shuffling the cards is not their fault, nor does it change the nature of the odds of the game itself. In addition, the gamblers upped the ante and countersued on the basis of ethnic/racial discrimination.

Judge James Isman ultimately ruled in favor of the gamblers, ruling that he did not believe the card game was rigged and noting that the complete lack of evidence of any unlawful activity on the part of the gamblers trumped the casino’s arguments.

The Golden Nugget has threatened to appeal, but also apparently has hedged its bets and made a settlement offer to resolve the matter. Regardless, the Golden Nugget will be pursuing Gemaco for providing unshuffled cards.

Originally published on September 19, 2012 in The Legal Intelligencer Blog and can be viewed here.

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