Casino gambling is typically a smooth process, where players make bets and either win, lose, or push. This makes casino gaming easy to understand. Gamblers know when they’ve won or lost, meaning there’s no controversy afterward.
But sometimes disputes arise between players and casinos over the results. These disagreements can be bad enough to where one side takes the other to court. Both gamblers and casinos have a chance to present their cases in these situations. But the casino seems to win a large amount of time – especially when concerning big jackpots and other wins.
Why are casinos so successful in beating players over cases involving huge payouts?Keep reading as I discuss what causes these disputes, why casinos win so many court cases, and if any of this should turn you off from gambling.
What Causes Disputes between Players and Casinos?
Gamblers and casinos squabble over a variety of matters. I’m going to discuss some of the different types of disputes shortly. But from a broad perspective, casinos and players often clash in court over big wins.A common scenario involves a player winning a seven or eight-figure amount, only to find that their winisn’t legitimate.
You might think that the house should award these payouts to players anyways. After all, the player is led to believe that they’re a big winner in these situations. But gambling establishments will fight tooth and nail if they believe they’re in the right. Oftentimes, casinos have a good case when they take a player to court or vice versa.
Different Types of Casino Disputes
I just discussed how many controversies between casinos and players revolve around huge payouts. Of course, there are different types of disputes that fall under this umbrella. Here are the various reasons why gambling venues and players have legal fights over big wins.
Land-based and online casinos offer electronic gaming under the assumption that their programs will feature“fair” odds for the player and house. Most gamblers fully realize that they’re at a slight advantage to the house when it comes to slot machines, video poker, and various online casino games. The casino, however, doesn’t expect to be at a disadvantage to players. This is why gaming establishments commonly check for a software error whenever somebody wins big. They don’t want to pay a gambler who only won because the software defaulted.
Prince was a beneficiary of this mistake, as he wagered $110 on the game-winning field goal and was eligible for $82,000 prize. His dream wager came through when Denver made the kick and won the game. But he was informed of a software error when he showed up to FanDuel’s New Jersey office to collect his payout.
FanDuel probably would’ve had a good case had Prince sued them. After all, it’s obvious they didn’t intentionally offer him 11:8200 odds on the game-winning field goal. However, the sportsbook/fantasy sports giant decided to pay Prince the full $82,000, rather than deal with negative publicity. They also paid 11 others who took advantage of the inflated odds.
Faulty jackpot payouts fall into the same category as software errors. The main difference, though, is that land-based casinos label these as “machine malfunctions.” Slot machine malfunctions are exactly how they sound in that a game’s software experiences a glitch and awards a much larger jackpot/payout than the player is due. The gaming world has seen plenty of incidents like these occur over the years. The most-famous incident recently involves Katrina Bookman and the Resorts World Casino in Queens New York.
She became enraged with the casino, which only offered a steak dinner as a consolation. Bookman refused the steak dinner and instead hired lawyer Alan Ripka to represent her. Ripka has since argued that his client suffered “mental anguish” over the matter. He also questions why the Sphinx slot machine was on the floor if it wasn’t functioning properly.Bookman and Ripka are still fighting the case to this day. But it doesn’t look good when considering that the New York State Gaming Commission backs Resorts World over the machine malfunction.
She probably shouldn’t expect to win much if anything when looking at similar cases from the past. For example, Pauline McKee lost a lawsuit against the Isle Casino Hotel in a story that mirrors Bookman’s tale. The 87-year-old grandmother was playing Miss Kitty slots at Isle Casino Hotel when the machine showed a $41,797,550.16 jackpot. Isle Casino officials showed were baffled by the $41.8 million jackpot.
McKee filed a lawsuit against the casino over breach of contract and consumer fraud. Her argument stemmed from Aristocrat Technologies, which manufactured Miss Kitty, informing Isle Casino and other establishments that the game was malfunctioning. Her case went to the Iowa Supreme Court, where it was struck down on grounds that Miss Kitty suffered an obvious machine malfunction after paying out $41.8 million.
Big Winning Sessions
Not all big winning sessions are the result of jackpots. Sometimes table game players get hot and go on a huge run.
But these big runs aren’t always legitimate due to flaws in card decks and other potential problems. Case in point, Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino sued 14 mini baccarat players who collectively won $1.5 million off them.
The players increased their bets from as low as $10 per hand to $5,000. At one point, the group won 41 straight hands.
Judge Donna Taylor ruled that the games were illegal under New Jersey law, because they didn’t conform to state gambling regulations.
The Golden Nugget initially paid out $500,000 to some of the players. The remaining gamblers kept a collective $1 million worth of chips after being refused payouts. Taylor’s ruling declared that the gamblers needed to return any winnings paid along with the outstanding chips. The Golden Nugget was ordered to refund all money that the gamblers wagered on the game.
Advantage gambling refers to when a skilled player gains an edge over casinos. Advantage play techniques include card counting, hole carding, and shuffle tracking. Gamblers are allowed to use advantage play to a certain degree. For example, it’s perfectly illegal for somebody to count cards and win profits.
Famed poker player Phil Ivey was involved in advantage gambling disputes with both the Borgata (Atlantic City) and Crockfords (London). Ivey used a technique called edge sorting to beat these casinos out of a combined $20.6 million. Edge sorting, which involves looking for flawed cardbacks to predict their values, isn’t inherently illegal. But the Borgata and Crockfords felt that Ivey went beyond standard edge sorting when he made several odd requests.
He, along with accomplice named Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, petitioned both casinos to grant the following:
- A Mandarin Chinese-speaking dealer.
- A purple Gemaco deck used in every session.
- Face-down cards rotated at 180 degrees.
Both establishments obliged, because Ivey was willing to make a $1 million deposit to play punto banco. He made the petitions under the guise that he’s a superstitious gambler. But the reality is that each request helped him gain a bigger edge. The Mandarin Chinese-speaking dealer allowed Sun to make certain request without casino management knowing what was being said. The purple Gemaco deck featured flawed cardbacks. Sun requested that the cards be rotated 180 degrees since this makes it easier to see the card backs.
Judges sided with the casinos in both cases on grounds that Ivey/Sun went beyond standard advantage gambling. Neither the London nor New Jersey judge felt that Ivey’s and Sun’s edge sorting was criminal in nature. But they did believe that the players essentially cheated the casinos.
Player Suspects Casino of Cheating
One common fear among gamblers is being cheated by the house. This rarely happens, though, because casinos stand to lose their license and tarnish their reputation for small rewards. Nevertheless, some players still have a big fear of being conned by gambling establishments. Sheila King, who experienced one of the greatest slots runs in history, was one of these gamblers.
King’s story would’ve been outstanding enough had it ended here. However, she kept playing and winning at high stakes slot machines. The widow accumulated a multi-million dollar bankroll and quickly became one of Vegas’ hottest VIPs. Casinos wanted her play so badly that they were willing to shower her with lavish gifts.
Caesars gave King a Mercedes-Benz convertible for free. Other casinos cleared out her favorite slot machines so that she could enjoy private sessions. One of King’s biggest requests was that the casino avoid doing maintenance work on her favorite games when she took a break.
Casinos were willing to oblige, considering that they felt King’s luck would eventually come to an end. They were right too, because she finally starting losing in 1993. During one losing session, King found out that a casino had opened her machine when she was on a break. King took this to mean that the staff had tampered with the game, thus causing her to lose.She sued the casino on grounds that they violated a verbal agreement and potentially cheated her. But a Nevada judge ruled that verbal gambling contracts aren’t enforceable under common law.
Gaming establishments have a social responsibility to avoid taking advantage of problem gamblers. Gaming regulators work to ensure that their licensees follow this rule. But some gambling addicts try to game the system by suing for losses on grounds that casinos have taken advantage of them. Such was the case in a lawsuit involving London’s Ritz Club and a high stakes gambler named Safa Abdulla Al Geabury.
Justice Simler eventually sided with the casino on grounds that Al Geabury’s testimony “lacked credibility and was riddled with inconsistency.”The judge added that the player “failed to establish that he had any gambling disorder at any material time.” It was also apparent that Al Geabury could afford the debt when considering that his Islamic art collection was valued at £1 billion.
He still refused to pay, however, and claimed that his art collection was overvalued. Al Geabury even tried saying that he couldn’t afford to fly back to London for another court date over his refusal to pay. The judge finally had enough and sentenced him to 10 months in jail for “deliberately choosing to do nothing to comply.”
Why Do Casinos Often Win in Court Battles?
A big reason why casinos commonly win lawsuits involving jackpots is because they have the perfect legal out. Video poker and slot machines normally have a disclaimer that reads:“Malfunction voids all pays and plays.” Casinos are explicitly stating that they won’t pay out anything when their games suffer a software error.
Gambling establishments can also rely on state gaming regulators to back them when possible. Regulators investigate big slots wins to ensure that they’re legitimate.If a gaming regulator discovers that a slot machine isn’t functioning properly, they can serve as a witness for the casino.
But what about cases that don’t involve jackpot wins?
Judges typically look at the circumstances behind hot table game runs to ensure that they’re legit. A faulty card deck or advantage gambler who goes too far usually gives the casino a good case. Some speculate that Ivey and Sun lost their case in New Jersey, because the judge took into account how the Borgata pays lots of tax revenue to the state.
Of course, judges are supposed to look at cases impartially and make decisions accordingly. Therefore, it’s tough to accuse a federal judge of favoring a casino without proof.
Casinos Don’t Always Win
Much of what I’ve discussed is how casinos win a large portion of court battles, especially those involving jackpots and malfunctioning machines. But the house doesn’t always win in legal matters against players. Case in point, an online gambler named Bruno Venturi once won a case involving £650,000.
He placed 6,670 wagers – with over 5,000 of these being free. The software error allowed him to turn a starting bankroll of £650,000 into a six-figure amount. The online casino’s legal team claimed that it was nearly impossible for Venturi to continue playing without noticing that something was wrong. However, the gambler explained that there were no clear-cut signs of a malfunction.
“How could I realize there was an error,” Venturi said. “There was no message, I was just drawing, I didn’t have a clue.” Venturi’s legal representation, John McLinden QC, successfully argued that Eurobet couldn’t prove his client broke any rules en route to winning £650,000. “The defendant has failed to establish that Mr. Venturi broke any rules of the game whilst playing and obtaining the winnings,” said McLinden.
A London high court judge sided with Venturi after noting that it was Eurobet’s responsibility to offer properly working software. This case essentially goes against the trend, which usually sees casinos win when there’s a malfunction involved. That said, you can never fully predict when the courts will side with a player over the house.
Chances are slim that you’ll walk away with any money if you win a huge jackpot stemming from a machine malfunction. Courtrooms normally side with the casino due to a disclaimer that voids all pays and plays following a software error.
Judges often rule in favor of gaming establishments in the following instances:
- A skilled gambler uses questionable tactics to beat the casino.
- Someone falsely claims that they’ve been cheated by the house.
- A problem gambler uses their addiction as an excuse to reclaim losses/avoid paying debts.
It might be discouraging to see how often the house wins in legal battles. But this doesn’t mean that you have to avoid casinos.
Instead, it’s important to realize that judges look at these situations impartially. If the casino presents a good case — such as a malfunctioning machine or an advantage player going too far – then they’re likely to win their case.
The majority of the time, though, big wins are legitimate and clear of any red tape. This means that gamblers receive their winnings in the vast majority of instances.