Casino's honour is just a house of cards

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 9:13am

It's probably sensible to stay away from casinos in general, but it's definitely a good idea to stay away from the Golden Nugget in particular, in light of its refusal to pay out in full US$1.5 million (HK$11.6 million) won by 14 gamblers described as Chinese-Americans.

The issue of race is relevant because three of the punters have accused the Atlantic City casino of refusing to pay because it had "discriminated against them based on their Chinese heritage", according to our report yesterday.

The 14 players got lucky in April after they noticed that the cards in their game of mini-baccarat were being dealt in sequence, and bet accordingly.

Astonishingly, the management thought they were being swindled. Despite beefing up the presence of its flunkeys at the table - to intimidate the players? - the casino managed to forfeit US$1.5 million in a 41-hand losing streak before realising it had been playing with an unshuffled deck. As our report stated: "It is so basic to the concept of gambling that it often goes without saying: the cards in the deck need to be shuffled."

It was a stupid mistake and one for which the house should pay the price, not the gamblers. Instead, the owners of the Golden Nugget have refused to pay out nearly US$1 million that is still due to the punters. It is also suing the company which provided the cards, in what it assumed would be a shuffled state, but it is difficult to imagine any court overlooking the casino's failure to check.

It's unlikely that the punters' race inspired the casino's refusal to pay out in full and the allegation is probably just a bluff, in the best traditions of poker. But there is something unsporting, to the extent of being irrational, about the casino's attitude.

The house may like to think it always wins, but in this case the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City is being a bad loser of the worst kind.

Alex Lo is on leave