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Baccarat trio ordered to stand before new trial

Fri, Mar 8, 10:09am by Staff Writer

Two gamblers and a card dealer accused of swindling Sydney’s Star casino out of $3 million by cheating in games of Baccarat have been ordered to stand trial again after their acquittals were overturned. 

NSW District Court judge Peter Whitford last year directed that the trio be acquitted after finding the prosecution had not identified anyone who had been deceived by their actions.

The Court of Criminal Appeal this week quashed Judge Whitford’s decision and ordered a new trial after the Crown argued it wasn’t an “essential ingredient” of the law to show that a natural person had been duped.

Two gambling high rollers and a card dealer were accused of using hand signals and cheating during games of Baccarat.

Baccarat is a popular casino card game played between two hands, the “player” and the “banker”.

During each baccarat coup (round of play) there are three possible outcomes: “player”, “banker” and “tie”.

Cards are assigned a point value, with cards two through nine worth face value; tens, jacks, queens and kings have no point value (are worth zero) and aces are worth one point. Joker cards are not used.

Hands are valued based on the rightmost digit of the sum of their constituent cards.

For example, a hand of 2 and 3 is worth 5, but a hand consisting of 6 and 7 is worth 3 (the 3 being he rightmost digit in the combined points total of 13).

Alleged incident took place in 2016

The District Court trial heard the men, whose identities have been suppressed, made bets of up to $250,000 over a 10-day period in July 2016 while in a lavish private gaming suite monitored by cameras. 

Crown prosecutor Brett Hatfield told the Court of Criminal Appeal last month that the dealer used “sleight of hand” to see the forthcoming cards and used hand signals or “phone communication” to help the men place winning bets.

Peter Neil SC, representing one of the high rollers, said there were photos of other dealers “at the very same place… using precisely the asme hand movements”, which, the court heard, lasted between three and 30 seconds.

Each man was charged with participating in a criminal group as well as 20 counts each of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception, and back-up charges of obtaining or attempting to obtain a benefit from a casino by dishonest means.

As reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the men walked free after Judge Whitford found there was no evidence of a link between the alleged cheating and the winnings when he ruled in February.

On appeal, Mr Hatfield said the judge’s decision was “an error of law” and there was “absolutely no ambiguity” about what the case was.

“There was footage of the games at the casino … of every shoe that was played, he said, adding that every offence had been identified with precision, “down to the precise time” it occured.  

The case will return to the District Court on March 15.

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