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Preliminary hearing into blackjack claims at Encore Boston

Tue, Jul 23, 6:40pm by Staff Writer

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said last Thursday that a preliminary investigation has found that Encore Boston Harbour’s casino operations were compliant with state gambling laws after a class action commenced last week that claimed the gaming facility was cheating patrons at its blackjack tables and slot machines.

Casino News Daily reports the suit represented A. Richard Schuster from New York, who played at the Boston area casino last week.

MassGaming’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau conducted a preliminary investigation of the issued raised in the lawsuit.

Bruce Band of the commission’s investigation arm told the regulator’s five-member board on Thursday that they have “preliminary finding that Encore is compliant with the commission’s rules and regulations for paying out blackjack wins.”

One of the claims listed in the lawsuit stated that Encore was adopting practices that significantly increased the house’s edge against patrons.

Schuster said that while playing blackjack at the recently opened casino, he expected to be paid out at 3-2 odds, but was eventually paid out at 6-5 odds.

Traditional blackjack pays players out at 3-2, but under Massachusetts’ gaming laws, local casinos are allowed to pay players at 6-5 odds as long as they fulfill certain other regulatory requirements.

According to the class action lawsuit, the change of odds can reduce payout by more than $85,000 a day, which translates to around $30 million in annual profits for the casino.

MassGaming’s investigation team said that on Thursday, the majority of Encore’s blackjack tables  – 64.5 per cent – are with 3-2 payout odds, while the rest are with 6-5 payout odds.

President of Encore Boston Harbour Bob DeSalvio told reports after Thursday’s meeting that he felt the lawsuit was “completely without merit”.

The casino official took particular interest in another portion of the lawsuit that claimed that the slot machines at the casino paid out in whole dollars, withholding the change.

DeSalvio said the allegations that Encore was rounding to its favour were “completely, utterly false” and that “every customer gets every penny that they deserve”.

Schuster’s lawyer, Joshua Garick, attended Thursday’s meeting, but did not speak before regulators.

He told reports that he was disappointed that the commission’s investigation team decided to “expedite its presentation to the commission with less than twenty-four hours notice.”

Garick added that investigators never contacted his firm or his client to discuss the serious allegations leveled against the casino.

The lawyer went on to say that they would pursue their claims in a court of law because their reading of Massachusetts’ gambling regulations was very different from what Encore has stated.

Encore Boston Harbour opened its doors in June 23 as Massachusetts’ second commercial casino resort.

According to June revenue data released by the Gaming Commission, the property took in $16.8 million in gaming revenue during its first week of operation.

Encore is projected to generate $800 million in annual slot machine and table game revenue, a quarter of which it is required to contribute to the state in tax revenue.

Encore Boston Harbour opened in June

Four people were arrested in three incidents at Encore Boston Harbour during the casino’s first 24 hours in operation, which the city’s police chief described as a success. 

The Boston Globe is reporting Police Chief Steven A Mazzie said there were “very limited problems.”

He said the number of arrests was low, given the many thousands of people who visited the $2.6 billion resort casino, which opened Sunday morning.

Traffic problems were minimal, he said, and emergency medical personnel were quick to help people who struggled with the heat as they waited to get inside.

One person was charged with trespassing after they were asked to leave and then came back, another was arrested for disorderly conduct at about 2.30am Monday and two men from New York were arrested after allegedly cheating at roulette, according to police.

Jankelli S Volquez and Hector Hernandez were charged with cheating and conspiracy after being observed cheating at a roulette table, State Police spokesman David Procopio said.

They were released on personal recognizance and ordered to stay away from the casino, said a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey.

State and local police respond to incidents at the casino. All four people arrested were booked at the Everett Police Department, Procopio said.

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