Massachusetts casinos are currently engulfed in “serious” scandal, with tens of millions of dollars on the line.
The claim – according to the sore losers who’ve filed two class action suits against MA gambling houses – is that the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos are using “non-standard” blackjack rules to give themselves a significant edge.
At issue is the question of blackjack payouts for actual blackjacks.
Generally, argue the plaintiffs, a blackjack earns a payout of 3:2. But MA casinos are accused of unethically paying out blackjacks at 6:5, instead.
While that may sound trivial, the difference adds up to big bucks for the house.
Courthouse News Service explains the math in basic terms:
“On a $20 bet, that’s the difference between winning $30 versus $24. Over hundreds of thousands of hands, the differential amounts to as much as $30 million a year for the casino operators…”
Before this utter nonsense made its way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s gaming commission was made aware of the complaint and has indicated in an amicus brief to the high court that the state casinos broke no laws.
Nor, says the commission, did they even break their own published house rules.
It’s unclear how the court will rule on the case, but the basic facts – and common sense – support the casinos.
All Massachusetts casinos (and, in fact, all US casinos) are required by law to post payout tables for every single game on their floors. This is an inflexible condition of their licensing compliance.
To that point, the casinos at issue – MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor – have not been accused of obfuscating or hiding their blackjack rules.
As the case is being heard, however, the judges are evidently not considering things from a legal perspective.
Instead, they are focusing on some subjective, personal interpretation of “fairness to the player.”
Per Justice Serge Georges:
“To the unsuspecting casual blackjack player, they would be completely unaware that the stakes are stacked against them.”
This is an interesting assertion.
Undoubtedly, throughout the course of his illustrious career, His Honor here has told many a defendant that old chestnut about how “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Well, ignorance of the blackjack rules is similarly no excuse.
Further, it is not remotely credible that the “casual blackjack player” who is unaware that casino stakes “are stacked against them” (casinos could not operate profitably otherwise) would simultaneously have a specific expectation of a specific payout structure for a specific and uncommon blackjack outcome.
Such a player would be completely ignorant of 3:2 blackjack payouts, exactly as they’d be ignorant of 6:5 blackjack payouts. They’d have no basis for understanding which is more or less common in practice, and they’d thus have no qualms at the tables.
Justice Scott Kafker presented an even more baffling defense of the plaintiffs:
“I’m not James Bond. I don’t know all the rules when I show up at the table. Is this a distinction that players know and understand? It seems like inside baseball.”
Good lord, milord.
First of all, James Bond’s game is baccarat, not blackjack.
Secondly, and more importantly, why on earth would a player in a casino be presumed to be ignorant of the rules of the games they’re playing?
If Justice Kafker doesn’t know the rules but plays anyway, does he have a legitimate argument to denying the merit of those rules when they turn out to be different than he expected?
Casinos have never been obligated to run their games in the manner of the expectation of fairness as defined by their customers. They are obligated to comply with state law, post the rules for each game, and abide by both.
That is all.
Is it the casino’s duty to provide comprehensive seminars, how-tos, and classes to explain the intricacies of each game they offer before accepting action from customers?
And “inside baseball”? Really?
Knowing the published payout rating for a blackjack hand – when you’re playing blackjack right in front of that published payout rating – by no means constitutes “expert knowledge” about anything.
And again, even if it did, these decidedly non-expert players wouldn’t be aware of the different kinds of blackjack payouts to begin with.
Not one of these claimants held their casino to account when they were paid out at 6:5 instead of 3:2. If they weren’t aware that 6:5 was a “bad” or “unusual” ratio – and they clearly weren’t (and it clearly isn’t) – then they were obviously satisfied enough with the rate to keep on playing.
This is nothing but ambulance chasing.
And it’s also one more reason why it’s becoming more expensive and less desirable to gamble at brick-and-mortar casinos in the first place.
It’s why more and more MA players are moving to legal online casinos operating overseas.
When you play online, of course, you could run into the same problem – if you’re as dumb as these litigious freaks.
That’s because the best legal betting sites have both RNG electronic blackjack games and live-dealer blackjack games that feature both of the payout variants in question (along with many others).
The difference is that online gamblers themselves are far more informed, as the rules for every title are included on the pages hosting the games themselves.
And they also know how to read.
Thus, there can be no excuse for not understanding the rules for gambling online, regardless of how specious those excuses might be in the retail casino context.
But in broader terms, there’s a lesson here for all gamblers, and it’s mind-numbingly basic:
Before you play any casino games, take some time to understand not just the rules of the games, but also the house rules for the games.
This is crucial because for most games, there are no universal payout rules. Different casinos use different rules, and it’s on you to study and understand them.
Would you bet on a sport you don’t understand? Would you bet on a team you never heard of? If so, that’s your problem, not your sportsbook’s. The same is true for casinos.
Your casino is under no obligation to correct your broken strategy to their own financial detriment.
Bottom line: No reputable gambling operator – whether it’s a regulated brick-mortar establishment or a legal online casino – is going to rip you off.
But they aren’t going to stop you from ripping yourself off.
Know the rules.
Source: Courthouse News Service