Colorado’s Ameristar Casino Is Involved in a Card Counting Scandal

Most American states prohibit gaming operators from taking part in card counting. Yet, Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado, is in hot soup after Joseph Shiraef, a 34-year-old Georgia resident, accused it of engaging in card counting at its blackjack tables.

The player sued Gaming and Leisure Properties, the casino’s owner, together with a city law enforcer, Black Hawk City, and a Colorado Division of Gaming worker. He wants them to pay him $3 million, comprising $1.5 million as punitive damages and $1.5 million in compensatory and economic damages.

Shiraef’s Gaming Accusations

Shiraef got an unprecedented layover at the Denver International Airport on October 19, 2021. He decided to visit Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk to play blackjack instead of idling at the airport while waiting for his flight. The gaming venue is a few miles west of Denver Airport.

The Georgia player is a skilled card counter. But his gambling budget drastically reduced to $4,000 after playing for some time. An employer at the casino inquired for his ID.

Shiraef showed the staff his wristband, proving that the casino had checked his ID when he entered. He stated that he was sure the casino wanted to sent his information to neighboring gaming properties. However, the law has a gray area on such an act’s legality.

The player informed KDVR-TV that he had chips worth $1,800 at that time, and the staff didn’t cash out when he failed to issue the worker his ID. Instead, Shiraef decided to leave the casino and return to the airport.

Even so, the casino’s employees blocked him as he left. One of them claimed that they stopped him after taking part in counting cards, which is a crime in Colorado.

Is Card Counting Legal in the State?

Card counting is common in blackjack. It involved keeping a mental track of the cards that a dealer has revealed and compares their bet size according to the count’s benefit or disadvantage. Generally, a player will make more profit if the deck will have many huge cards left.

The dealer gets an advantage once most of the remaining cards are small ones. Nevertheless, card counting isn’t as easy at it sounds since a standard show contains many decks. Therefore, a gaming site’s security personnel can easily spot a player who is tracking the card’s count due to their suspicion.

Colorado doesn’t prohibit card counting. It is technically illegal in other regions, but a casino’s owners can stop an individual’s gaming session and urge them to leave their premises.

Shiraef stated that an SUV blocked his car, and a casino worker alerted them that his fraudulent activity would attract a warrant since counting cards is illegal. The gamer added that a Colorado Gaming Commission member asked for his license. He is confident that he didn’t violate Colorado’s gaming regulations and shouldn’t have been detained.


A sports enthusiast, Ryan helps cover sports betting news from around the country, highlighting some of the more interesting events going on in the USA.