Card counting is in the news again. A blackjack player in Las Vegas is suing Harrah’s Entertainment over the company banning him from their hotels. The man, Steven Silverstein, stated in his suit that Nevada law does not allow Harrah’s to deny him access to their casinos.
Back in September, Silverstein was playing blackjack at Paris Las Vegas, which is owned by Harrah’s, and was told to cash out and leave the casino. He was also told by the casino manager that they did not want him to return to that casino or any of Harrah’s casinos. He said that if Silverstein did try to return to the casino, he would be arrested.
Banning players for counting cards is nothing new. Though card counting without an external device is not illegal, the casinos do not like it and if they catch you doing it, you will be asked to leave and may be banned from returning as well. Recently, blackjack card counters have been fighting back by challenging the legality of those bans. There is no consensus about who is in the right.
Card counters say that the casinos have no right to deny them access simply because they count cards, since it’s not illegal. Others say that since the casinos are private businesses, they have the right to ban anyone they want from their establishments.
The courts have been inconsistent in their rulings so far, such as in a similar case in Indiana. In that state, a man who was banned for counting cards sued the casino. The court in that case ruled in favor of the casino, upholding their right to ban customers. The player then appealed and the appellate court ruled in favor of the card counter. The casino then appealed and the case is set to be heard by the state Supreme Court.
It’s impossible to tell how that case, Silverstein’s case, or any other will turn out. What this tells me is what I’ve always said about card counting. It is not illegal and it is not cheating as long as you do it only using your mind and nothing external to help you. However, I will neither encourage nor discourage card counting. Though it isn’t cheating, getting caught will get you in a lot of trouble with casinos. Therefore, there is a high risk to card counting, one that you need to consider before deciding whether to do it. Also consider that simply by playing blackjack basic strategy, you can lower the house edge to 0.5%, which is incredibly low for a casino game already.