Joseph A. Lombardo
Friday, a New Jersey judge decided that the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, NJ casino had to let the players who profited nearly $1 million from a baccarat game cash in their chips. You might remember, and we previously covered, that the players were playing at a table which allegedly was using cards that had not been properly shuffled. The judge’s decision drew expected criticism from casino officials who stated that they were going to file an appeal Tuesday. However, the owner of the Atlantic City casino, Texas Billionaire Tilman Feritta, said that he would pay the players.
Feritta issued a statement saying that although the casino ‘could’ appeal the decision and tie the litigation up for ‘a number of years’, that the casino business was a customer-based business, would pay the players whom he said had taken advantage of the house and ‘realized a gambler’s dream.’ He went further to say that it was improper for the casino to try and recoup its losses through litigation against the players, and rather vowed to pursue already pending litigation against the card manufacturer.
Casino officials have already said that they were unable to come up with any evidence that the players had intentionally cheated or were in collusion with each other. The casino instead was leaning on an argument that under New Jersey gaming law, casino games must provide ‘fair odds’ and be fairly competed in by both the players and the casino. The casino’s stance in the denied suit was that since the cards had not been properly shuffled, ‘fair odds’, had not been in place.
The casino is also suing the manufacturer of the cards used in the baccarat game, which they claim were supposed to be supplied to the casino pre-shuffled and ready to be used.
The judge expressly said in his ruling that the players had done nothing wrong and even though they had obviously figured out the pattern, there was no guarantee how long that pattern would continue, and there was still risk in playing the game.
The card manufacturing company, Gemaco, Inc., has already admitted that it had erred in not properly shuffling the cards. The cards had reportedly not come out of the chute in any kind of numerical order such as 6-7-8-9, rather in an order which the manufacturer uses. However, the players quickly figured out that pattern and were able to profit from playing the game. The players allegedly increased their betting from the minimum $10 per hand to around $5,000 per hand.
So who’s at fault?
It appears to me that the only ones not at fault here were the players. They did not seek out to intentionally defraud the casino, and the casino had their employees present for most of the game in question. One huge problem I, an Atlantic County lawyer, see on both sides is that everyone has already stated who they think is at fault. The card manufacturer has even stated they were at fault. What did the casino expect when they had already filed a liability suit against the card manufacturer? The casino should pay the players and move on. Ultimately though, it may come down to the agreement between the casino and the card manufacturer and who a judge ultimately decides is responsible for ensuring that the cards used in the casino are properly shuffled. Even though the manufacturer has already stated that the cards were shuffled in a way that was easily identified, the casino might still be the one left holding the bag (of improperly shuffled cards).
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