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March 25, 2015

The house always wins: gamblers forced to pay back winnings


Roughly three years ago, 14 gamblers in Atlantic City managed to do what all gamblers can only dream of and win $1.5million in a single night. The dream quickly turned sour when the casino accused them of cheating and detained them – something which the gamblers maintain was an illegal detention.

The issue arose in the Golden Nugget casino in April of 2012 when the gamblers in question noticed that the card in the game of Baccarat they were playing in, happened to be coming out in a very predictable order - this due to the casino ordering pre shuffled cards off a manufacturer in Kansas. The only problem on this occasion was that the cards where not shuffled and the casino where just using them as is.

Casino employee giving cards at a baccarat table

As soon as the gamblers realised the predictability of the cards appearing they instantly upped their bets from the small amount of $10 a hand to in excess of $5,000 a hand. They ended the night accumulatively up $1.5million between the 14 of them.

A court case has been raging for the last 3 years where the casino wants the gamblers to give back all the money that they won. The casino claiming that as the cards where unshuffled, it was not a legal game and therefore the winnings are voided and should be paid back. The players claiming that winning the money came about from a mistake by the casino, not from any wrong doing on their part.

Last month, the judge finally ruled that the players should be ordered to repay all of their winnings as the game was not legal by the laws of the state and didn’t conform to the way that games should be played according to the state gambling regulations.

The gamblers in question are challenging this decision and the appeal is to be heard on Friday 27th March 2015. They have been quoted as saying that:

By making the players give back what they won three years after the incident sends an incredibly chilling message to the public: A win isn’t always a win, casinos will try to get back the money from winning players, even those without fault.

Of course the casino representatives think differently and think that the ruling made by the judge last month, was the correct one in the eyes of the law, bringing about a fair outcome to the case.

The point the gamblers are trying to make, is that they did not break any rules; they did not cheat in any way. They just happened to notice a mistake made by the casino and they then leveraged that mistake in their own favour to win some money. If they are ordered to pay the money back does that mean that the casino will always win? Even when they lose a lot of money they will go after you and get the money back.

It does not bode well for gamblers in the future. What if someone wins a huge jackpot and the casino wants the money back? Will they go after that too and with the precedent set by this court battle will they then win? This puts the casino is such privileged position where they know they can win, even when they lose.

Golden Nugget owner and Texan billionaire, Tilman FertittaWhen the original incident occurred, the casino owner – Billionaire Texan, Tillman Fertitta – made a decision that the gamblers could keep the money they had won with one caveat. The caveat being that they had to drop all the other accusations they had towards the casino such as illegal detention. The gamblers where not happy with these terms and chose to take the case to court.

The ruling that will be given in the coming weeks could have long lasting ramifications in the gambling industry that will reverberate for years to come and potentially stop some punters from playing the games they want to, now that the hope of a mistake or stroke of luck leading to huge wins has well and truly been quashed.

After all, if the mistake was made by one of the casino employees or by a contracted entity such as the provider of the cards – who in a separate case, have admitted that they failed to shuffle the cards – why should the innocent gamblers that benefited from the negligence be made to suffer.

A separate litigation between the card manufacturer and the casino was settled but the details cannot be released as they are covered by a confidentiality agreement.

Regardless of the outcome the ruling will be of significant importance to the gambling industry and many people will not be happy – while others will be overjoyed at the decision.


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