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The House Always Wins — Gamblers Ordered to Pay Back $1.5M in Winnings to the Golden Nugget.

Just imagine winning hundreds of thousands of dollars from a casino. You sit down at a card table with visions of breaking the bank, and sure enough the cards are turning in your favor. And while you’ve won hands before, this time is different. This time you recognize a pattern and in fact, you can’t lose. You increase your bet. Well, why not? You figure, let’s ride this out and see where we end up. After all, you’re not doing anything wrong and neither are any of the other players at your table. The excitement builds; the celebration appears endless. Indeed, you are not alone; everyone at your table is winning. The high fives abound, the cheers, the good fortune, and its all yours as you peer above the ever-growing Mount Everest of chips in front of you.

Millions of people flock to casinos across the nation every year with the same quest in mind, “this is going to be my night, I’ll call you when I hit the big one!!”

Well, 14 mini-baccarat players found themselves in this very situation, among them their winnings totaling more $1.5M – yes, MILLION, dollars. The euphoria however didn’t last very long. Just this last week, a New Jersey Superior Court Judge ordered the “winners” to return the money to the Golden Nugget on the grounds that the deck of cards used during the winning spree was not pre-shuffled thus making the game unauthorized under state law.

The lawsuit, brought by the Golden Nugget against the players also named Gemaco, Inc., the card manufacturing company, as a defendant. The Golden Nugget alleged that Gemaco failed to pre-shuffle the cards prior to packaging and certification, which is required in order for the cards to be ready for immediate use.

Casino workers did not notice the un-shuffled decks, fed them into the shoe and dealt the games. 41 shoes in all before the mistake was realized. According to state regulations, card shuffling for mini-baccarat must be done immediately before play begins unless the cards are pre-shuffled. The court, applying strict application of the state’s law, found the un-shuffled deck violated the state’s mandate. With strict liability statutes in play, pleas of good faith fell on deaf ears. So the next time you are headed the city of lights, be careful of what you wish for, for things may not always appear as they seem.

Reported by Mary Pat Gallagher in the New Jersey Law Journal and reprinted in The Legal Intelligencer, February 25, 2015, Vol P. 2364.

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