Judge again backs Golden Nugget in unshuffled cards lawsuit

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Luck appears to have run out for a group of gamblers who won $1.5 million from an Atlantic City casino that was using unshuffled cards.

A judge has again sided with the Golden Nugget against 14 gamblers who say they won the money through no fault of their own playing mini-baccarat in April 2012.

In February, Judge Donna Taylor determined the games were illegal because they didn’t conform to gambling regulations specifying the way each game must be played and ordered the gamblers to return the money. The gamblers asked her to reconsider, and in a ruling issued March 30, she once again backed the casino.

Mary Chatten, an attorney for the gamblers, said they are considering whether to appeal. They told the judge that if the ruling stands, it would send a chilling message to the gambling public that no jackpot is ever safe.

At issue were games of mini-baccarat using decks of cards the casino had paid a manufacturer to pre-shuffle but that hadn’t been shuffled. Once players realized the pattern in which the cards were emerging, they drastically upped their bets from $10 a hand to $5,000, and won 41 straight hands.

Last month, the judge determined the games were illegal under state law because they didn’t conform to gambling regulations specifying the way each game must be played.

The Golden Nugget bought what were supposed to be pre-shuffled cards from a Kansas City manufacturer, which acknowledged in court it failed to shuffle them. The casino said its litigation with the manufacturer has been resolved, but a confidentiality agreement prevents it from revealing details.

The judge’s February ruling was the latest in a long series of decisions that have seesawed between favoring the casino and favoring the gamblers. The owner of the casino, Texas billionaire Tillman Fertitta, originally decided to let the players keep their winnings, but that offer was contingent on them dropping other claims they made against the casino, including illegal detention, which they declined to do.

The casino paid out about $500,000 in winnings for the disputed games. About $1 million in chips remains outstanding.

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

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