By LVBear | February 28, 2016
This is being posted here as a place to preserve the information. It was originally posted on SweatTheMoney.com and on BJ21.com.
Player X vs. Sands Regency Dispute
Last update: June 3, 2008
This dispute happened in 2006 at the Sands Regency in Reno in blackjack. It should be noted that the Sands Regency is not part of the Sands casinos owned by Sheldon Adelson. … In this dispute, a player doubled on A8, got a 2, the dealer drew to 17, and casino management refused to pay him, saying the player had 11. Here is the what happened in the player’s own words, reprinted here from BJ21.com with permission.
Three suits were watching me play at the Sands Regency, and they were making me uncomfortable. I was planning to leave at the next shuffle, because they were sweating the action so badly.
This little casino allows double on 9, 10, 11 only. This is stated in a sign on the table. With $100 bet, I doubled an Ace, eight. The dealer made a 17, and turned over my double down card, which was a 2, for 21. The dealer started to pay me, but a female suit said to the dealer, “Don’t pay him; he has eleven. He lost.” Another suit said, “No, he has 21 — pay him.” The third suit said nothing. The dealer was confused and did nothing. The three suits quickly huddled, then announced that Sands Regency has a “special rule” that if you double on Ace, eight and draw a 2, you have to count the Ace as a one; you forfeit the right to deem it an eleven. Therefore, my hand lost.
(Cell phone picture of disputed hand appeared here in the original post)
I have never heard of this rule anywhere. Apparently neither had the dealer and at least one of the suits. After some discussion, the female, who I later learned was the shift manager, held firm. I offered to call the hand a push, take my bet back, and leave, never to return. No. I called the Gaming Control Board, and spoke with Enforcement Agent Cindy Martinez, who told me, “That’s absurd; they have to pay you.” She said she would send an agent to the casino.
While waiting for the agent, I demanded that the “evidence” be preserved unaltered. To my surprise, the shift manager complied with my demand, resulting in the game being shut down for ninety minutes pending arrival of Agent Jim Carlile. I informed a few patrons who wanted to play the reason the table was out of operation. One patron incredulously told the floorman, “This is bull—-. The guy has 21. How can you not pay him?” Two patrons walked out the door after I explained what had happened. The guard didn’t say one word to me, and the cocktail waitress brought me liquid refreshments as if I was still playing. The situation was actually quite humorous. I photographed the cards with my cell phone camera. No one said anything about it.
Agent Carlile arrived and took verbal statements from me, the dealer, and two of the suits. He said he would seize the surveillance video. The agent asked me to complete a written statement, including any supporting documentation about game rules, and send it to him. He said he would issue a ruling by mail within thirty days, but for now, the dealer could take my $200. She did.
Sands Regency does not have blackjack rules on its website. I understand the logic of the casino’s position, but I think it’s silly. It carves out a single exception to the generally understood rule that an Ace is one or eleven, at the player’s discretion. This exact sequence of cards is the only time this “exception” would result in a changed result of a hand. I later filed a written complaint with Gaming, which subsequently ruled in the casino’s favor. I haven’t decided whether or not to appeal this decision.
Following is a copy of the player’s complaint:
State of Nevada, Gaming Control Board
VOLUNTARY STATEMENT — Case number 06-1302
The only matter in dispute is whether a licensee has the right to change a fundamental rule of blackjack, denying a player the option to deem an Ace to be a one or 11, without a specific notice to patrons of the rule change. The mere indication on a small sign that the licensee permits doubling down only on 9, 10, and 11 is not sufficient warning of the licensee’s intent to apply this bizarre “rule.”
The attempted “rule change” is of such magnitude that it changes the basic math of the game. Knowing that receiving a 2 on an Ace, 8 double down would result in the hand being counted as a total of 11 instead of the obvious 21 would preclude a rational player from making this double down. By obscuring the “rule,” the licensee is attempting to profit from the ambiguity it created. The Board should not allow this to happen.
Nevada Gaming Regulation 5.012 states, in pertinent part:
2. Payoff schedules or award cards must accurately state actual payoffs or awards applicable to the particular game or device and shall not be worded in such manner as to mislead or deceive the public. Maintenance of any misleading or deceptive matter on any payoff schedule or award card or failure on the part of a licensee to make payment in strict accordance with posted payoff schedules or award cards may be deemed an unsuitable method of operation.
The licensee claiming it does not have to pay off an obvious winning hand changes the payoff schedule of the game of blackjack, and is designed to mislead or deceive the public.
Nevada Gaming Regulation 5.011 states, in pertinent part:
5.011 Grounds for disciplinary action…
10. Failure to conduct gaming operations in accordance with proper standards of custom, decorum and decency, or permit any type of conduct in the gaming establishment which reflects or tends to reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the gaming industry.
Attempting to profit from an absurd interpretation of a common game rule is not within proper standards of custom, decorum and decency, and reflects or tends to reflect on the repute of the State of Nevada and act as a detriment to the gaming industry.
Nevada Gaming Regulation 23.080 states, in pertinent part:
23.080 Posting of rules. The rules of each game shall be posted and be clearly legible from each table and must designate: …
5. Other rules as may be necessary.
In attempting to make a major rule change to a basic rule of a common casino game, the licensee should have posted this rule. Nevada does not publish rules of blackjack, so we need to refer to other authoritative sources.
The website BlackjackInfo.com publishes Blackjack Rules:
2.2: Values of the cards
In blackjack, the cards are valued as follows:
An Ace can count as either 1 or 11, as demonstrated below …
The Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11. You need not specify which value the Ace has. It’s assumed to always have the value that makes the best hand. (emphasis added)
There is no exception for a double down on Ace, 8 that receives a 2.
Mohave Community College in Bullhead City, AZ offers a dealer training course that trains many dealers for employment in Laughlin, NV casinos. The course is run by experienced casino personnel. Enclosed are copies from the Blackjack Handbook published by the college. From Page 5:
VALUE OF CARDS …
3. Any Ace shall have a value of eleven unless that would give a player’s or Dealer’s count in excess of 21, in which case it shall have value of one.
There is no exception for a double down on Ace, 8 that receives a 2.
The licensee claims that by posting a rule permitting double downs on 9, 10, and 11 only, the patron forfeits the right to avail himself of a universally known and understood tenet of blackjack; i.e., the right to deem his Ace as a one or 11. The licensee has not posted this purported change to a basic rule of the game, resulting in an ambiguity. Sands Regency is the only casino in Reno that restricts double downs to 9, 10 and 11, further obscuring the purported rule change (see Current Blackjack News, July 2006 issue attached).
It is well-settled in contract law that an ambiguity should be resolved against the party that created it. Contra proferentum has been held determinative in resolving ambiguity in a contract that, like the agreement here, is drafted by one party and offered on a take it or leave it basis without meaningful negotiations.
Where a contract is open to two different but equally probable interpretations, it is interpreted against the author, especially if there is a power imbalance between the parties. (emphasis added)
The conduct of gaming in a casino is essentially a contract between the licensee and the patron. The licensee has “authored” the contract. The licensee has created the ambiguity. The ambiguity should be interpreted against the author of the words and not against the other party. There certainly is a power imbalance between the parties.
Courts resolve ambiguities … when the ambiguity cannot be (otherwise) resolved … the nondrafting party to a contract is protected by contra proferentum — “against the proffering party.” The principle of the doctrine is that ambiguities are always interpreted against the drafter of the ambiguous language. (emphasis added)
The licensee is the “drafter of the ambiguous language.” The ambiguity must be resolved against it, and in favor of the patron. The Sands Regency’s purported “rule” attempts to carve out an exception to the commonly understood “Ace is one or eleven” rule that would apply only to a specific hand, and would only apply at a casino that restricts double downs to 9, 10, and 11. As previously noted, Sands Regency is the only casino in Reno that has this specific restriction.
The only hand in blackjack where this purported “rule” would change the result of a hand is with the exact combination of three cards; Ace, 8, and 2. No other card drawn to a double down on Ace, 8 would change the result of the hand because of the purported “Sands Regency rule.”
Therefore, the commonly understood principle of blackjack, as stated in the dealer training course referenced above:
“Any Ace shall have a value of eleven unless that would give a players or Dealers count in excess of 21, in which case it shall have value of one.”
… would have to be changed to read as follows:
“Any Ace shall have a value of eleven unless that would give a players or Dealers count in excess of 21, in which case it shall have value of one, except in a casino that permits doubling down only on 9, 10, and 11 in the case of a double down on Ace, 8, and drawing a 2, in which case the Ace does not have a value of eleven, but instead has a value of only one.”
Clearly this would be absurd. The courts and the Supreme Court have always chosen interpretations which do not lead to an absurdity over the one which leads to an absurdity (the absurdity doctrine).
I respectfully request that the Board order the licensee to pay me the $400 in dispute.
I have reviewed this voluntary statement and believe it to be true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.
The Gaming Control Board agreed with the casino’s position, as shown in the ruling linked below.
Gaming Control Board ruling (PDF).
By LVBear | October 2, 2015
Sunset Station (from its website)
The below information was posted on BJ21.com Green Chip. I copied the post verbatim.
This case, a couple of years old, was recently brought back to my attention. I think it’s of sufficient general interest to post it here instead of on Law and Taxes because it is illustrative of the incompetence and lack of integrity that we potentially face every day in our interactions with casino personnel. The two documents linked below are the best brief summaries of the entire case; they point out the many blunders and worse, the inconsistencies of the accounts of the incident by various employees involved, each apparently trying to blame someone else for what was done to the two patrons. As plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote, “This is a case about a failure to take responsibility.”
After dragging the case out until just before jury trial, Sunset Station eventually privately settled with the two “good casino customers” involved (there is no indication that they were advantage players). In my opinion, reasonable management would have settled to the victims’ satisfaction long before a lawsuit had to be filed. My guess is that the two victims would have settled for less than they eventually received. Sunset Station would also have saved attorney fees.
I like the plaintiffs’ attorneys naming in the lawsuit as an individual defendant the worst offender and apparent enabler of the mess that transpired, Shift Manager Vinny Gilvarry. Though Mr. Gilvarry tried to place the blame on others, it is good that such misbehavior and apparent lack of candor in legal proceedings is brought into the public eye. Because this is all public record, it should act as a cautionary note should any other casino want to hire this individual in the future, and possibly create liability for negligent hiring should he become involved in a similar incident.
Page 3, starting at Line 5:
Gilvarry points the finger at his supervisor, Alida Del Fonte for the arrest.(*) See Exh. D, Depo. of Gilvarry, 3l:6-11. Conversely, security shift supervisor David Clark and security officer Joseph Emerson point the finger at surveillance agent Jose Gonzales and Gilvarry. See Exh. G, Security Report, l; Exh. F, Depo. of Clark, 22:18-23:8; Exh. G, Security Report, Emerson Voluntary Statement. In an attempt to further shift blame, Gonzales points the finger at Gilvarry. See Exh. E, Surveillance Report, l.
(*) The Court will note that despite the fact that Gilvarry denies ordering the custody, Defendants admit in their motion for summary judgment that he ordered the detention. See Def. Mtn,4-2l-23.
Of all the incompetence, two things struck me as particularly loathsome and ridiculous: (1) Mr. Vilgarry telling the patrons, “You are under arrest” but later lying about his involvement, and (2) after Sunset Station realized its mistake and that no crime had been committed, continuing to falsely imprison the victims and subsequently trespassing them. Why would Sunset Station want to trespass these folks?
The first link below is an Opposition filed by plaintiff’s attorneys to a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Sunset’s and Gilvarry’s attorneys. (The motion was denied by the Court.) The second link is a report on the incident by the plaintiffs’ expert.
By LVBear | April 27, 2015
Photo credit: Ronda Churchill/Las Vegas Review-Journal
UPDATE: After inquiry was made, Metro stated that there are no dash-cam or body-cam videos of the police response to the incident.
I cannot believe some casino buffoon authorized these hapless “mall cop” casino guards to have real guns, especially in light of the recent guilty plea to manslaughter of a patron by a security guard at Eldorado Reno (see Growl directly below this one). It seems that just like in their never-ending abuse of skilled patrons, the casino industry just will not learn to rein in the security thugs. The lawsuits will continue to pile up.
The South Point idiot who fired the shot has already learned from bully-boy police who use the “I was scared” excuse for maiming and killing. Shame, shame on the South Point for letting guards have guns. This cowardly guard should probably be fired, and perhaps prosecuted for attempted murder. If he was so “fearful,” all he had to do is run away. If letting these bozo guards have guns didn’t endanger the public so much, it would be laughable. I hope the public will stay away from South Point until they stop this idiocy.
It is puzzling and interesting to note that apparently Metro has clamped down on information it will release about this incident. So far, Metro has not publicly identified the two arrestees and their charges. No word if the guard was one of the people arrested. The entire story needs to come out, not just the scant information that was available when the R-J article was written, so the public can assess what level of danger it has been subjected to by the apparently stupid actions of this guard. There might be circumstances under which the shooting was appropriate. But if information is hidden from the public, we can only assume the worst — that it is as it appears.
By LVBear | April 14, 2014
Photo credit: Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: In an absurd result, the killer was sentenced to only six months in jail and $5,000 in “restitution.” Six months for killing someone? Good grief!
It had to happen eventually. A case of patron abuse too egregious to be ignored by police. Unfortunately, someone had to lose their life before authorities would take action against a casino guard amid the ever-present threats of violence against patrons by typical casino thugs.
Though accused killer Stefan Johnson enjoys the same presumption of innocence as any other American, the arrest is a pleasant surprise. I cannot even imagine the pressure to cover it up and not prosecute that the homicide detectives and the DA’s office must have faced from local politicians as well as the powerful Carano family, who own the Eldorado, and other major political contributors in Reno. I don’t think charges would have been filed if this had occurred in Las Vegas.
Johnson lifted (decedent) Victorio-Acevedo to head level, took him over his left shoulder and drove him into the ground, the (Reno police) affidavit says.
“Johnson’s use of force to facilitate a questionable misdemeanor trespassing arrest was excessive and went beyond what is considered acceptable, proper or necessary to facilitate an arrest of an individual who, at the time, was complying with Johnson’s order to leave,” the affidavit said.
Congratulations to everyone involved in the arrest and upcoming prosecution. If Mr. Johnson is indeed guilty, I hope for a swift conviction and long prison sentence. Maybe other casino guards will finally wake up and realize they cannot continue their loathsome behavior, at least in Reno. This case should send shock waves through places like the Cal-Neva, where some guards are particularly fond of bullying people.
Is it too much to hope for that the next time Las Vegas casino guards rough up a patron, appropriate criminal action will be taken instead of the free pass that the guards almost always have gotten in the past? And that perhaps casino management will make better hiring choices — and provide appropriate training?
By LVBear | October 22, 2013
Casino managers conspired to cheat a patron out of earned free play and out of a car at a subsequent drawing. From the hearing examiner’s decision:
Obviously, the actions of (the casinos) in this matter grossly violate the declared public policy of this state as it relates to gaming. The decisions made by (the casinos) were calculated, dishonest, immoral and done to purposefully distort the outcomes of advertised promotions. This type of disingenuousness serves no purpose other than to erode public confidence and trust in the gaming industry.
My understanding is that some of the crooked employees lost their jobs, but to my knowledge there has been no criminal prosecution of these casino-employee crooks. Why not?
By LVBear | October 22, 2013
Photo credit: Las Vegas Sun
According to the latest news article, the dispute began over the customer apparently being denied a $30 refund. What stupidity. I am in no way defending the alleged shooter, but can’t casinos and their nightclub partners use common sense — EVER?
You have an angry drunk standing before you demanding his $30 back after he was in the venue only a short time. Just give him the money and let him go on his way. Sadly, this tragedy was likely entirely preventable, if just a tiny bit of common sense would have been used. Defuse a bad situation, don’t worsen it.
Training professional security guards is an ongoing concern for casinos and clubs in general, said Jeff Voyles, a gaming consultant and professor of casino management at UNLV. Turnover and training costs are high in security departments, said Voyles …
Ahh, yes, “training costs” — the costs of doing something the right way are simply too high. Instead, hire some moronic street thugs and call them “security officers.” Or, too often, hire a tired old belligerent ex-cop who forgets he no longer has the supposed authority to push people around, and call him “security manager.” Pathetic.
Frazier asked club security whether he could go in and preview the crowd before paying a $30 cover charge. Police said he decided to pay the cover and went inside but came out shortly afterward demanding a refund because the club wasn’t full.
Again, Las Vegas gets a black eye in nationwide headlines. And unfortunately, it is deserved.
By LVBear | October 3, 2011
Many people have asked when another growl will be published. The answer is, I don’t know. For the past few months, I have been preoccupied with other endeavors. It is likely to stay that way into the foreseeable future. Though there is plenty to growl about, I am not on a time schedule. As I wrote when I started this blog in 2007:
I growl whenever something annoys me enough to comment about it. There is no schedule or timeline as to when I choose to growl.
There simply are not enough hours in the day to do everything I’d like to do.
I’m glad that you read my growls. There will be more eventually. Thanks for reading.
The Bear Growls: Man near death in New York New York hallway for hours; people just stepped around the body. What happened to “security?” Man subsequently died.
By LVBear | August 2, 2011
For six hours, Terrell lay on the hallway floor near the elevator as hotel customers stepped around his body entering and exiting the elevator, according to what (Clark County Commissioner Steve) Sisolak said he was told by Metro (Police).
Finally about 11 a.m., resort security got involved. Terrell was still unconscious but alive, Sisolak said he was told.
It is disgusting that no customer tried to do anything to help; not even make a simple phone call or tell a hotel employee. I guess surveillance was preoccupied for hours watching out for brain-using patrons, and the security guards were asleep in the break room or in otherwise unused hotel rooms.
Metro was involved in the case several hours after security found Terrell …
After eventually being awakened from their slumber, it took security several hours to notify Metro Police. Incredible. The incompetence and stupidity regularly exhibited by some of the pinheads in casino security borders on criminality. Our District Attorney needs to file charges against more than just the guy who killed Terrell.
By LVBear | April 20, 2011
Politicians thinking out loud: Gee, let’s boost tourism. Why don’t we build a high speed train? Let’s run it between Las Vegas and Victorville, California! No, this is not a joke.
Victorville is a gang-infested, lower-middle class California high-desert community about 35 miles from Barstow, and 110 miles from Los Angeles. It is literally “in the middle of nowhere.” But the promoters of a train from Las Vegas that dead-ends in Victorville somehow have gotten the support of Senator Harry Reid and other politicians to spend billions of dollars on this boondoggle. Ah, yes, someday there is supposed to be another pie-in-the-sky rail line built between Victorville and Palmdale, California, that’ll connect to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles, a Las Vegas-bound visitor would first have to go to Palmdale (many miles out of the way), then to Victorville, then on to Las Vegas. Would this be three separate trains? Who knows. The plan is so absurd it’s amazing that it’s gotten anything but laughter.
If this ridiculous project ever actually happens, I predict another bankruptcy in short order, just like the poorly thought out, ill-fated Las Vegas Monorail. Of course, the promoters of the Monorail siphoned off millions for themselves. The Desert XPress is next. How can this stupidity be explained other than that there are forces at work that act out of the public eye?
All aboard the Bankruptcy Xpress!
By LVBear | March 13, 2011
The Legislative Building
Some clear thinking (at least on this issue) Nevada politicians have introduced Assembly Bill 258, which provides for Nevada regulating online poker to the degree reasonably possible. Unlike some other bills designed to be punitive to the existing online gaming companies, this bill states:
The Board shall not recommend denial of, and the Commission shall not deny, a license to an operator of Internet poker or to a manufacturer of interactive gaming systems, a manufacturer of equipment associated with interactive gaming systems or an interactive gaming service provider solely because the operator, manufacturer or interactive gaming service provider, before the effective date of this act, operates, operated or was associated with, in interstate or foreign commerce and while licensed by another jurisdiction, one or more Internet poker operations which were unlicensed in the United States or the State of Nevada and in which bets or wagers were initiated, received or otherwise made by persons located in the United States.
These politicians, or whoever drafted this bill for them, understand that getting the online industry off the ground in Nevada will necessitate the involvement of the large companies already experienced in other jurisdictions. Rather than to try to “punish” those pioneering companies for legally operating outside of the U.S., this bill encourages them. This is clearly the correct approach.
AB258 is nowhere near its completed form. Let’s hope as the bill winds it way through the legislative process, the common sense approach now embodied in it remains. This legislation is a breath of fresh air for Nevada. This is something that could result in Nevada becoming the U.S. center of online gaming, as Nevada once was the undisputed leader of the brick-and-mortar casino industry, before mismanagement and corporate greed severely harmed it.
Let’s hope for the best with this; Nevada needs the revenue and new jobs that could be created. Though it’s a long shot, I hope that this will kick open the door for all online gaming, particularly sports betting. The Nevada sportsbooks need some “legal” competition to force them to offer their patrons a better deal; maybe breaking up their existing cartels, which unfortunately our regulators failed to do when they had the chance.
Congratulations to all involved with Assembly Bill 258, and good luck with it.