Gambling and the Law® by Professor I Nelson Rose
Harvard Law School’s Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law has just published an interesting article: “Casino Countermeasures: Are Casinos Cheating?”, citing Professor I Nelson Rose.
The writer says, “I am disappointed that I was only cited a couple of times. I have written on whether casinos can shuffle up when they know the remaining cards favour the players. (Short answer: they can, but they should not be able to, since, in my opinion, it artificially changes the odds in their favour. This is the definition of cheating.”
I started writing about preferential shuffling by casino blackjack dealers 30 years ago, after I received a copy of a letter from the Nevada Gaming Control Board declaring that the Board saw nothing wrong in the practice. The letter, written on official stationery, was from Board Training Officer William R. Souligny, “with the permission and at the direction of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board.”
Souligny wrote, “. . . early shuffling does not alter random selection. Random selection for 21 is established during the shuffle. Random selection is not violated if a casino shuffles every hand, every other hand, or at the whim of a player, dealer, or pit boss. Dealing procedures are established by casinos individually, and the Gaming Control Board may not regulate shuffle points.”
We are, of course, not talking about shuffling at the whim of the dealer. Preferential shuffling occurs when the dealer or casino is counting cards and determines that the remaining undealt cards favor players rather than the house. Random selection may be established during the shuffle. But early shuffling only when the cards favor players is not random. In fact, it undoes the randomness created by the initial shuffle.
A casino can lose its license for “unsuitable methods of operation,” including “dealing any cheating or thieving game … either knowingly or unknowingly … which tends to deceive the public or which might make the game more liable to win or lose, or which tends to alter the normal random selection of criteria which determine the results of the game.” Regulation §5.011(9)(b) of the Nevada Gaming Commission and State Gaming Control Board.
Previous writings by Professor Rose, going back to 1990 on the subject, look at “the controversy over the right of casinos to shuffle cards in blackjack whenever the remainder of the deck favours the players” and, as recently as 19 February 2019, in Preferential Shuffling added: “Surprisingly, preferential shuffling may not be illegal. I would, nevertheless, strongly advise casinos not to do it.”