Note: This post applies specifically to casinos in the United States. I have no idea how the law works in other countries. I’d also like to make it clear that I am not a lawyer. If you need serious legal advice, contact an attorney.
Casinos are not particularly fond of card counters, but the act of card counting is not illegal. As long as you use only your mind to keep track of the current count, you are not breaking any laws. Where you would get into legal trouble is if you were to use a device (iPhone, small computer or some other contraption) to assist you in counting cards in blackjack.
However, casinos can take measures to make your card counting life more difficult. Casinos in Las Vegas are allowed to kick anyone off the property for any reason. If the casino suspects you of card counting, it can kick you out and tell you to never come back.
Casinos in Atlantic City aren’t allowed to kick patrons out for suspected card counting, but they can employ other measures to disrupt your scheme. They can instruct the dealer to shuffle the deck after every hand, they can send someone down to distract you and they can concoct other reasons to legally remove you from the property.
So again, card counting in blackjack is not illegal but it’s still best not to get caught. A big part of success in card counting is related to maintaining a low profile. Card counting itself isn’t all that difficult. The methods used by advantage players don’t require a genius level intellect. The real skill comes in finding ways to increase your bets at advantageous times without drawing attention to yourself.
You should also know that casinos do share information with one another regarding advantage players and other undesirables. If you get kicked off one property, there’s a good chance that your picture will be passed to other properties. It doesn’t take much to be barred from numerous casinos.
The laws regarding card counting and what the casinos can do to you in return vary from state to state and tribe to tribe. Make sure you check with a legitimate attorney before you attempt card counting somewhere other than Vegas or Atlantic City.
What About Trespassing?
Things become a little more convoluted when we bring trespassing into the picture. Although rare, some blackjack players have reported being officially “trespassed” from a casino. What they mean is that some casino representative pulled them aside, read them a formal trespassing warning and maybe even had them sign an official looking paper.
Some players have been told that if they return after being formally trespassed, it would be a violation of law. Court cases have ruled both ways on this one, so there is no consensus as to whether or not you can be charged with the crime of trespassing.
You can probably be arrested for trespassing, but it’s uncertain if you’ll be charged or convicted of any crime. You can also try to fight the casinos in court, but that requires money and time – and casinos suffer from no lack of either.
If a casino ever tells you that you have been officially trespassed, you should go see a lawyer before any attempt at returning. The laws are murky in this area and it would be good to get professional help before taking any action on your own.