A recent court ruling in the world of gambling places responsibility of a game’s fairness on a surprising involved party: the players. A recent court case between New Jersey’s Golden Nugget casino and fourteen gamblers began when the casino failed to shuffle the cards, leading 1.5 million dollars in winnings. State Superior Court Judge, Donna Taylor has opted to side with the casino, and has ordered the winnings to be returned to the casino.
The event in question occurred in April of 2012, when, after the casino had paid the manufacturer to shuffle the cards, they remained un-shuffled for a mini-baccarat game. Interestingly, this introduces the third party, Kansas City manufacturer, Gemaco Inc. seemingly directly responsible for the unfairness of the game, and large transfer of money.
In the original 2012 court case, Gemaco’s attorney, Jeffrey Mazola admitted the company’s mistake. He explained to the judge, “There was a mistake made at the Gemaco facility, which we freely admitted. This was a one-time, isolated mistake, but it occurred. It’s supposed to be a game of chance. It changed from a game of chance to a windfall for the individual players. What we have now is individual players coming to the court asking for a free payday based on a mistake that took place.”
One of the 14 gamblers, Michael Cho of Elliot City, MD., sees the issue differently. “I wasn’t cheating. I didn’t do anything illegal. It wasn’t right for them to get the money,” Cho explained. He maintained the game, while different, was still gambling. “We took a chance on every hand we bet, that it [the pattern] wouldn’t change. We didn’t know if it was going to change. That’s called gambling.”
Regardless, Judge Taylor has pinned the responsibility on the gamblers who, when recognizing a pattern in the output of cards, raised their bets from $10 per hand to $5,000 per hand. They won 41 hands straight. The judge applied a pragmatic eye to the matter at hand. She wrote, “The dealer did not pre-shuffle the cards immediately prior to the commencement of play, and the cards were not pre-shuffled in accordance with any regulation. Thus, a literal reading of the regulations […] entails that the game violated the (Casino Control) Act, and consequently was not authorized.”
The result of the ruling dictates the return of any of the casino’s cash or chips, while the casino will refund the game’s entry fee. At this time, $500,000 of the disputed sum has been pain, while the million dollars remain as outstanding chips. A lawyer for Landry’s Inc., the casino’s partner predicts the gamblers will appeal Judge Taylor’s decision.
Judge Taylor’s ruling overturned the original decision that ordered the casino to follow through on the game’s payout. In 2012, Golden Nugget’s owner, Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta opted against his lawyer’s counsel, to make the payments on the game in question.
“Even though we can appeal the court’s ruling and take full advantage of the appellate process and legal system, and tie the matter up in litigation for a number of years, the Golden Nugget is a people business, and is prepared to allow the gamblers — most of whom continue to gamble at Golden Nugget — to realize the gambler’s dream of beating the house,” Fertitta said. In 2012, Fertitta explained the proper response would be to recoup losses through litigation from Gemaco. He said, “We have a company we can go back against that has admitted fault. But that’s our problem.”
However, where it stands in 2015, Fertitta has made a full 180. The casino’s litigation with Gemaco has been resolved. A confidentiality agreement withholds its details.
The Golden Nugget, Fertitta and Judge Taylor are reinforcing the age-old maxim, no matter who’s at fault, the house always wins.