Barring and Prefferential Shuffling
Should it be Allowed?

The game of gambling is very simple. A casino opens for business offering a series of games with rules which have been approved by the gaming commision. These rules are usually clearly written up, often on an instruction card available at the gaming table or in a descriptive gaming booklet offered by the Hotel Casino.

Let's look at the table games for a moment. In order to play at a gaming table, by default, you agree to play by the rules. As long as you adhere to the rules, you are allowed to play. Should you violate one of the game rules, you will be informed of that fact, either by the dealer or the floor supervisor for that series of tables. Then if you continue to violate the rules, you will be asked to leave the table, and possibly even the casino all together. In other words, each gaming table has a series of rules which you agree to abide by, if you wish to play.

Now, if YOU are required to play by the rules, the casino should be bound by the same rules. It seems fair, does it not? As it turns out, because the casino HOSTS the game, they are often given the lattitude to selectively determine whether they are going to abide by the rules, or not.

I am reminded of the incident in August 1987 when Bob Signore discovered that the gaming guide description of the Roulette game at the Trump Castle was not only in error, the casino and the gaming commission KNEW it was in error and allowed the gaming booklets to continue being distributed after they were first found to be in error over a year before.

Signore filed a complain with the Commision, which was promptly rebuffed. While Trump denied anything was in error, casino management (as well as the gaming commission) claimed to have corrected the gaming guides with corrective stickers. That this was not true means that he was not only lied to by Trump Castle, but by the New Jersey gaming commission ("the most highly regulated industry in the country", by their own accounts).

Signore requested a mediation and was railroaded again, because it was claimed that he knew the rules of the game so no one was actually cheated. Trump's lawer argued that the state of New Jersey is under no obligation to enforce any particular law (Huh?). He also argued, in defense of the gaming guides that the illustrations "showed only sample bets and did not say you would win or lose if you placed them".

Signore contended that foreign visitors to Atlantic City might well not know the game rules and therefore would refer to the gaming guide for assistance. He filed suit and the issue went before a judge who promptly threw it out asking Signore, "What gives you the right to act as public advocate?" The judge then lectured Signore for having the temerity to question the integrity of casino regulation in the state of New Jersey.

While the above description is not exactly in line with the title of this editorial, it serves to demonstrate the duplicitous nature of casino regulation in New Jersey; a situation not that different in the state of Nevada.

As this is being written, in Nevada casinos still have the right to bar players from ANY GAME, simply because they are too skillful (i.e. winning money). That right no longer exists with New Jersey casinos thanks to a landmark lawsuit filed by Ken Uston against Resorts International (the first casino open for business in New Jersey). He argued that because "Blackjack is a game of chance" (games of skill were not at that time allowed in New Jersey), that he should not be refused the right to play simply because he was deemed a skilled player.

Initially, Uston lost his suit based on the Inn Keeper's Act (of the year 1611), wherein a business can reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. Uston appealed and won. The casino appealed the case to the state supreme court and lost. The law forbidding the barring of players went into effect on Sept. 15, 1982. (Ironically, my one and only barring occurred on birthday on Sept. 14, 1982. I was unaware of Uston's suit which would have allowed me to play the very next day, and drove back to my hotel in the Boston area - I was teaching classes on the east coast.)

It should also be noted, that the change in New Jersey law has not completely eliminated the barring and harrassing of suspected card-counting players. I am reminded of Campione vs. the A.C. Tropicana wherein he received "prefferential treatment" because he was counting. He won a landmark $1.2 million lawsuit because of this; although, it is now in the midst of a series of appeals. Even if the judgement is upheld, it won't do Campione any good as he is now deceased.

Several years earlier, Uston had sued the Las Vegas Hilton for barring him from play at their tables. Thanks to cheap legal representation, Uston not only lost the case but it has set a devasting precedent. In the case notes underlying the Nevada Revised Statute NRS: 463.151 (which details who may be excluded from a licensed gaming establishment), it is argued that barring is not an infringement of 1st Ammendment rights, or the right of equal protection. It also goes on to say, and I quote:

No mention is made concerning whether or not casinos can bar OTHER types of system players, such as Clump Trackers, who do NOT count the cards, although a Las Vegas judge around that same period of time ruled that front-loading (holecard play) is not illegal. He is on record as having said "If they show the card, why shouldn't he (the player) be allowed to look at it?".

While barring incidents are less frequent today that 15 to 20 years ago, they still occur. The Barbary Coast on the Las Vegas Strip is NOTORIOUS for the barring of players thought to be card counters.

If you think about it, there is no way a casino employee can BE CERTAIN that a player is counting the cards, unless of course they have been blessed with the psychic ability to read people's minds. Instead, the accepted criteria for determining card-counting play is to have someone behind the surveilance cameras keep a running count and then note whether the player's betting spread coincides with that count. As a result, many non-counting (hunch) players have been barred.
What it REALLY boils down to is this: if you are winning you can be barred, simply for winning.

Let's examine the other half of this: prefferential shuffling.
Some casinos have taken the attitude that if the players can count the cards then so can the dealer. With prefferential shuffling, when the running count turns negative, the dealer deals DEEP into the deck. However should the running count turn positive, the dealer simply shuffles the deck(s) elimenating the player favorable condition.

Understand that prefferential shuffling can be done REGARDLESS of whether or not card-counting players are suspected to be playing at a given table. In other words, the casino can selectively choose to ONLY deal a house-favorable game, shuffling away any player- favorable conditions, regardless of the skill (or sobriety) of those players at the table.

I contend that NEITHER procedure (prefferential shuffling or barring) should be considered legal. Remember, the casino offers a set of rules, and I, the player, make a decision on whether or not I am willing to play by those rules. To prefferentially shuffle the deck or bar one from play altogether is tantamount to the house changing the rules in the middle of the game, anytime they are losing. Imagine a poker game in progress wherein you have a considerable amount of money in the pot and realize that one of the players has you beat. If you could then change the rules mid-play, or have your competitor barred from play because of that, there would be no game of poker anymore.

And yet, the casinos in Nevada are allowed to get away with it. They are allowed because no has had the courage to initiate a class-action lawsuit against Nevada casinos protesting these actions. Luckily, I play the shoe games almost exclusively these days. I now play the shoe games because in 1989 and 1990, my card-counting days came to a sudden end when I found myself being shuffled up on in the single and double deck strip games. Since that time, I have laid down a number of low-stake card-count plays (usually against ShuffleMaster machines). Unfortunately, even then I have been given heat and shuffled up on; or, the shuffle card is moved to 50% penetration or less.

While we can't really argue against poor penetration (as long as a shuffle card is inserted BEFORE play of that pack commences), I personally feel that the practices of barring and prefferential shuffling are illegal (or at LEAST unethical) practices which should be brought to an end.
What do YOU think about it?