Casino not liable in unshuffled cards case

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — An Atlantic City casino does not have to pay $1.5 million won by a group of gamblers who realized the cards had not been shuffled, and can move to recover more than $500,000 it already paid them, a judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court judge James Isman ruled that because the cards had been unshuffled, that made the game of mini-baccarat in April 2012 illegal under state casino rules.

“We were 100 percent vindicated by Judge Isman’s ruling,” the Golden Nugget said in a statement.

A lawyer for several of the defendants declined to comment.

Fourteen players racked up $1.5 million in winnings over 41 straight hands when they realized the cards were coming out in a specific pattern. Many of them quickly upped their bets from $10 a hand to $5,000.

The problem was that a Kansas City playing card manufacturer that sold decks of cards guaranteed to have been pre-shuffled did not do so in this case. The company, Gemaco, admitted in court it had erred in providing cards to the casino. A Golden Nugget lawyer said a confidentiality agreement it had reached with the card company prevented him from commenting on the lawsuit’s disposition.

The casino sued the 14 gamblers for the return of money paid out and seeking to be absolved of having to redeem the outstanding chips. The players countersued, alleging, among other things, that the casino illegally detained them.

The illegal detention claim remains pending.

A preliminary court ruling two years ago went against the casino, which said it would appeal. But hours later, owner Tilman Fertitta overrode his lawyers and said the casino would pay the remainder of the disputed winnings. That deal fell apart days later when some of the gamblers refused to dismiss their claims against the Golden Nugget.

“Remarkably, and despite this generous proposal, the gamblers and their lawyers steadfastly refused, and selfishly wanted more damages than just the gambling winnings,” the casino said in its statement. “Instead of walking away with over a $1.5 million win, the gamblers must now return all of their gambling chips to the Golden Nugget. There are obvious lessons to be learned by all sides as a result of this incident. Unfortunately for the gamblers, it cost them over $1.5 million.”

In Friday’s ruling, Isman dismissed a racketeering count against the casino.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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