Philadelphia’s Sugarhouse Casino might be celebrating being the first in Pennsylvania to launch its online sportsbook, but it has run into some legal trouble that may have dampened the move, as two patrons of the brick-and-mortar gambling venue have sued the casino. William Vespe and Anthony Mattia claim they lost a combined $250,000 thanks, in part, to Sugarhouse’s negligence in making sure its automatic card shufflers worked properly and that the decks in the games had the correct numbers of cards.
Perhaps Manual Shuffling Would’ve Worked Better
Sugarhouse was fined $95,000 by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last October for poor quality assurance controls during a period of May 2017 to January 2018. There were seven reported times during that period in which the warning lights on automatic shufflers – lights which indicate there is a problem – were not addressed immediately. Because of this, shuffles in games such as poker, mini-baccarat, and blackjack were bad.
For instance, on September 23, 2017, the shuffler was stuck on “sort” mode instead of “shuffle,” which meant that it arranged the cards in number and suit order, rather than randomly shuffling. The light was blinking, but 16 hands went by in a poker game before the dealer stopped the action to get it taken care of.
$85,000 of the fine was for those seven incidents.
The rest of the fine was issued because sixteen cards were found stuck in a card shuffler that was no longer in use on the casino floor. After tracing the shuffler back to when it had been active, it was discovered that 122 hands of a Spanish 21 game (a blackjack variant) had been dealt without those cards. Seven of the eight people that played in those hands lost money.
That takes us back to the plaintiffs in the case. They say that they played in some of those games at Sugerhouse Casino during the period for which the casino was fined by the PGCB and lost just shy of $250,000 – William Vespe lost $147,026 and Anthony Mattia lost $103,844.
“The thrill in playing table games at SugarHouse is knowing that while the odds are against them, they can still ‘beat the house,’” their attorney, Steven Feinstein, told NJ.com. “But that all goes out the window when a casino uses broken equipment or ‘illegitimate’ decks as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board previously found SugarHouse to have done.”
A spokesperson for Sugarhouse told NJ.com that the casino denies that any of the plaintiffs’ losses were the result of any card shuffler problems, but at the same time, employees who were responsible for the issues were either “disciplined” or fired. Steps have allegedly been taken to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
From my own non-lawyer standpoint, it seems like it would be hard for the plaintiffs to prove that their losses were the result, or partially the result, of the shuffler problems, unless perhaps they were in those Spanish 21 games, but in a civil suit, the burden of proof is much lower than in a criminal case, so they may have a chance.