Blackjack players who sued the Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield in Massachusetts ended up with a busted hand at the Supreme Judicial Court this week.
The plaintiffs argued the casinos were paying out worse odds than state regulations allowed, thereby illegally increasing the house edge. All had won games at odds of 6/5, rather than the more customer-friendly 3/2.
But they claimed it was illegal to offer 6/5 blackjack in Massachusetts and the casinos should have paid out at 3/2.
As the lawsuit noted, with an average bet of $50 per hand, a customer could be expected to lose an additional $35.60 per hour playing 6/5 compared to 3/2.
The math is even more disturbing when you multiply this average expected loss by five players per table, by 20 tables offering the crooked Blackjack game at any given time, and by 24 hours the casino is open each day,” the suit contended.
“This means Encore is stealing $85,440.00 from its customers each day, or well in excess of $30 million each year,” it claimed.
Typo in the Rulebook
But their argument did not add up to 21, according to the court. A panel of judges ruled Wednesday that the gamblers knew the rules when they sat down to play, and they could not use the judicial system to adjust their winnings.
“They played at tables requiring smaller bets and paying out a winning ‘blackjack’ at six dollars for every five dollars bet (6:5), rather than three dollars for every two dollars bet (3:2) as at the more expensive tables,” the panel wrote in its ruling. “The plaintiffs sat down at tables with the basic rules and 6:5 payouts printed on the felt of the table, were dealt blackjacks, and won.
We conclude that the plaintiffs understood the rules and the stakes, and that deference is due to the commission’s interpretation. Therefore, the plaintiffs lose this last bet,” the ruling continued.
The case arose from a misprint in the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s (MGC) rulebook, which appeared to confuse a standard blackjack game paid at 6/5 with a blackjack variant named “6/5 blackjack.” It is the latter game that’s banned under state regulations, not the former.
The plaintiffs argued this created ambiguity in the rulebook. Casino.org delved into the somewhat complicated specifics of the error here.
Case Tossed Like a Dud Hand
The ink was barely dry on the rulebook when the plaintiffs filed their case against the casinos, which in 2019 had not been open for long. Since Massachusetts had never offered legal blackjack before, some confusion about the rules was perhaps understandable.
But the MGC has explicitly stated in response to the lawsuit that standard blackjack with 6/4 odds is legal in Massachusetts. Following an investigation, the regulator found both casinos had been compliant with the rules.
The court noted that the MGC had revised its regulations in October 2020, and so the point was now moot.
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