Lawsuit Filed Against Encore

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday in Middlesex Superior Court on behalf of a New York man is accusing Encore Boston Harbor of not following the state’s Blackjack rules when it comes to variations on the game – in particular the ‘6 to 5’ variation.

A second piece of that suit alleges that electronic kiosks for redeeming winnings at the casino were withholding change, rounding down to the lowest dollar amount for the payment.

Encore, in a statement, denied the accusations.

And the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said it is reviewing the allegations.

“The MGC is aware of the lawsuit and reviewing its content to determine next steps,” said MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll.

Encore Spokesperson Rosie Salisbury said they have followed all of the state’s rules for Blackjack and gaming since opening.

“Since opening, Encore Boston Harbor follows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regulations for blackjack payouts,” she said on Monday.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of A. Richard Schuster of New York as a class action for all betters since opening, and it delves into the ins and outs of Blackjack and all of its variations. Schuster allegedly visited the casino and played on July 11.

Specifically, the suit claims there have been problems with how the ‘6 to 5’ variation of the game has been run at Encore. The ‘6 to 5’ statistically can benefit the house, and it has been the primary Blackjack game offered on most occasions in the gaming floor of Encore, with the standard ‘3 to 2’ game sometimes closed off and located at the back of the gaming floor.

The ‘6 to 5’ term refers to the odds for the payout on a Blackjack, so that a $100 winning bet pays $120.

Part of Schuster’s suit indicates that the casino is only paying out the ‘6 to 5’ odds on a Blackjack, and should be paying out ‘3 to 2’ odds according to the state law governing the game.

That law is not for the novice, and will require a careful review by experts at the MGC.

However, the rules do state odds that must be paid. Most wagers in the game are to be paid out at a 1-to-1 ratio. The payouts change, however, for a Blackjack – which is defined as “an ace and any card having a point value of 10 dealt as the initial two cards to a player or a dealer except that this shall not include an ace and a ten point value card dealt to a player who has split pairs.”

That payout is what is at odds.

The MGC rules for Blackjack read that a Blackjack played at a ‘6 to 5’ can pay out at that ratio.

“All winning wagers…shall be paid at odds of 1 to 1 with the exception of standard blackjack which shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2, or at odds of 6 to 5 for the 6 to 5 blackjack variation,” read the regulations.

Also at stake is the numbers of decks of cards used in games of ‘6 to 5.’ It is alleged the casino was using more than two decks, which some say is the standard for that game. However, the rules at the MGC are not entirely clear, stating that a minimum of one or two decks must be used. Nothing seems to state that there is a maximum number of decks for that variation.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, the minimum number of decks used to play blackjack shall be…one or two, if the 6 to 5 blackjack variation is offered,” read the regulations.

However, in a totally different subsection regarding how to play ‘6 to 5’ Blackjack, there seems to be an expectation that no more than two decks would be used – and that they have to be dealt from the dealers hand and not using a dealing machine.

“The dealer shall remove the shuffled deck or decks from the automated shuffling device and shall place the single deck or two stacked decks of cards in either hand,” read the state rules. “Once the dealer has chosen the hand in which he or she will hold the cards, the dealer shall use that hand whenever holding the cards during that round of play. The cards held by the dealer shall at all times be kept in front of the dealer and over the table inventory container.”

There are also rules in that section about whether the cards in that variation are to be dealt up or facedown. The lawsuit does challenge that practice of how the game is dealt as well.

Much of the allegations are very detailed, and will require careful review by both a judge and the MGC. What is particularly at stake, it would appear, is whether or not the state’s rules conform to the standards of such games of chance in other parts of the country and world. The MGC did not say if there were other such complaints about the Blackjack rules in the Springfield MGM casino – the only other venue in the state where Blackjack is allowed.

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