You probably remember the case from 2006 when the Grand Victoria Casino banned Thomas Donovan because he was caught counting cards. Donovan took the case to court, suing over what he said was discrimination against players practicing a legal strategy. Eventually the case made its way to the Indiana state Supreme Court. Last week, that court made a ruling in the case that favors the state’s casinos.
Last week, in a 3-1 ruling with one justice abstaining from the case, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld a casino’s right to ban card counters from its blackjack tables. As the casino’s supporters – and even me – pointed out, businesses have a common-law right to exclude customers who they feel are detrimental to their business. The Court agreed with that assessment, stating that as long as civil rights are not violated, business (including casinos) have the right to refuse service whenever they deem it necessary.
Justice Frank Sullivan, Jr. wrote that the right of exclusion for “private property owners” includes any casino “that wishes to exclude a patron for employing strategies designed to give the patron a statistical advantage over the casino.”
Not everyone agreed, though. The lone dissenting vote was by Justice Brent Dickson. He feels that casinos, because they’re so highly regulated by the government, do not have the same rights and privileges as other private businesses. In essence, he argues that casinos should have to follow the rules of government or government-sponsored enterprises, which requires them to serve the “general public.”
In Dickson’s dissenting vote, he wrote that allowing a casino to “restrict its patrons only to those customers who lack the skill and ability to play such games well intrudes upon the principles of fair and equal competition and provides unfair financial advantages” to the casinos.
Though the ruling has no direct impact on anyone outside of Indiana, it carries a message that I have been preaching to all blackjack players for some time: If you’re going to count cards, don’t get caught! The casinos frown upon it and will likely ban you. In the state of Indiana, that practice of banning has been upheld as constitutional. Meanwhile, adhering to blackjack basic strategy does not have to be a secret. You can even hold a strategy card while you play if you want.