Is Virtual Blackjack Blackjack?

Blackjack is a pretty basic card game that comes in many forms. The earliest and most obvious form of blackjack is played at a table in a brick and mortar casino. The dealer gives you cards and you wager, win and lose chips on each hand. Some casinos have gone to chipless electronic blackjack tables, where you are still dealt physical cards but instead of using chips, you place bets on a touch screen and have money automatically credited to or subtracted from your account. Online blackjack is offered at web-based casinos, where everything is done on the computer and instead of cards being shuffled, the outcome is controlled by a random number generator. You can also play mobile blackjack on your cell phone.

And then there’s virtual blackjack, which is causing a lot of controversy in the state of Florida. In the Sunshine State, the Seminole tribe wants to operate blackjack tables at their casinos and are already doing so. An agreement with the state Congress has been scrapped, which some say makes their blackjack tables illegal. Some lawmakers in the state want those tables shut down.

In response, the Seminole tribe has said that pari-mutuels in the state are offering virtual blackjack. According to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, Indian tribes have the right to run any game in their casinos that is allowed in the state in which their casinos reside. Therefore, if Florida’s government allows the pari-mutuels to offer blackjack, then they must let the Seminole do the same.

The problem is that those pari-mutuels claim that their “virtual blackjack” games aren’t really blackjack. Those virtual blackjack games have been inspected and licensed by the government, so the only way the Seminole could be prevented from having blackjack is if the courts buy the “this isn’t really blackjack” argument.

According to the pari-mutuels, the games are not really blackjack because instead of the outcome being determined by a shuffling of cards, it is controlled by a random number generator. For that reason, according to them, they are more like slots. However, they are wrong. First of all, online blackjack also uses a random number generator.

Secondly, the method by which the game is randomized makes no difference. Whether it’s by a computer program, a dealer shuffling by hand, or an automatic shuffling machine, you get the same outcome: cards randomly dealt to you. Unlike slots, whether you win or lose isn’t based solely on that outcome. You have to make decisions. You can decide to hit, stand, double, split and more and those decisions, combined with the random outcome of the cards you are dealt, determine whether you win or lose. With slot machines, you win or lose based on the random spinning of the reels. That is not the same at all.

So what do you think? Is it still blackjack even if it’s a computer program that determines what cards you are dealt?

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