Massachusetts Gaming Commission Files Amicus Brief Against Encore Boston Harbor Claiming Unfavorable Blackjack Odds

When it comes to offering casino gambling games, an operator is supposed to provide fair and balanced odds. For the most part, they do. However, there are some instances where players are tricked and less favorable odds are providing, leading the win percentage towards the house. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently filed an amicus brief within an existing lawsuit against Encore Boston Harbor, involving the operator paying out blackjack wins at unfavorable odds.

Details of the Lawsuit

The issue stems from a complaint filed back in 2019. In the compliant within the United States District Court, it alleges that the casino operator was stealing from customers by ignoring the rules of blackjack to increase the statistical advantage of the player and lower the payouts owed on wins.

The casino was paying out blackjack wins at 6 to 5 odds instead of 3 to 2 when a player was dealt an ace and a card with a point value of 10. The difference may seem small, but when you consider the actual payout different, it is much larger than expected.

Let’s say a player bets $50 on blackjack and plays for an hour, completing 80 hands. Players can expect to lose over $35 an hour more at 6 to 5 odds when compared to the 3 to 2 odds. Each day, this would average to over $85,000 in extra losses based on the odds. On a yearly average, it amounts to more than $30 million.

In response to the suit, Encore Boston Harbor has said that the lawsuit does not have any merit. An initial investigation into the matter by the Gaming Commission found that the casino was not in violation of any rules or regulations posted by the Commission. No action has been taken by the Commission on the matter.

A similar case involving MGM Springfield was dismissed by the state’s Superior Court and it moved on to the Supreme Judicial Court via an appeal. Those involved with the US District Court case involving Encore have now been approved by a judge to send the question of the central issue to the Supreme Judicial Court to ensure the issue is resolved based on uniform legal grounds.

Send in Briefs

The Supreme Judicial Court has now requested that amicus briefs are filed regarding if the version of the blackjack rules from February 11, 2019, published by the state’s Gaming Commission and posted on its site allow a casino in the state to pay 6 to 5 odds to a player who earns a blackjack hand while not playing by the 6 to 5 rules listed in Rule 6a.

The Court has already scheduled the case arguments for early April. Back in January, the Gaming Commission was asked by those involved in the case if they would file a brief. The matter was discussed by the commissioners and at the time, they came to the conclusion that they would not file unless asked by the court via a formal request.

The Commission was worried in the beginning that if they filed it would be a forfeit of the group’s neutrality. Now that a request has been made, the commission voted four to zero to begin filing a brief.

Conor Stack
Conor Stack

Conor is one of our main writers on USGS focusing on a wide range of industry coverage across sports, casino and poker.