New Jersey Declares Open Season On Cardcounters
Copyright 1998 By I. Nelson Rose All Rights Reserved

A New Jersey court has held that cardcounters are so dangerous that casinos in Atlantic City are free to openly discriminate against skillful players.

In 1982, the state Supreme Court ruled that only the Casino Control Commission has the authority to issue regulations excluding cardcounters. The case involved noted blackjack expert Ken Uston. Because the Commission had never issued a regulation, Atlantic City casinos were forbidden from attempting to bar these players.

The Commission responded to the Uston decision by giving casinos weapons to fight cardcounters. In June of this year, the Superior Court’s Appellate Division explicitly stated, "The Commission adopted these measures to hobble cardcounters because of their perceived threat to the mathematical advantage the casino industry must enjoy to remain vital."

The Court went on to describe "the disparate treatment of cardcounters" authorized by the Commission. These regulations allow casinos to:

1) Limit a particular player to play only a single hand at a time;

2) Change the table minimum or maximum by merely posting a sign and "announcing the change to patrons who are at the table;" and

3) Allow some players at a table to have a higher maximum wager than other players.

A casino cannot physically throw a cardcounter out. But it can now limit players it suspects of counting to playing a single hand dealt out of a shoe with eight decks of cards. Most significantly, a casino can announce that a $1000 maximum table is now a $100 table, and that the new lower maximum applies only to the suspected cardcounter.

This is exactly what happened to Anthony John Campione on the afternoon of November 10, 1989.

There is little dispute over what happened that day at the casino then known as TropWorld. Before sitting down to play blackjack at a $25 - $1000 table, Campione "back counted," counting cards until the deck turned favorable. He began by betting several hands of $300 to $350.

Interestingly, he lost more than he won. Campione either hit an unlucky streak, or he was not that good at counting cards.

More interesting, the casino also was counting cards. Michael Imperatrice, a floor supervisor, testified that he was a member of TropWorld’s card counting team. He described how he had been watching Campione play when he noticed that Campione "had a favorable count."

Imperatrice immediately put a sign on the table lowering the betting maximum to $100. He then asked if anyone at the table would like to bet more than the new table maximum. When Campione said he intended to bet $300, Imperatrice told him that he was limited to $100.

Campione pushed $350 into the betting circle anyway.

If he had lost, and the casino had taken only $100, there probably would not have been a lawsuit. But Campione won -- he was dealt a 10 or 11 and sought to double down with an additional $350. He received a nine or a 10 and won the hand.

The dealer was told to pay him $200.

Campione refused to accept the chips. He asked to talk to the Commission and was told he would have to go to the Commission’s booth. He wanted to keep the cards as evidence. Patrick Scully, TropWorld’s sergeant of security, informed Campione that he would have him arrested if he did not take his hands off the cards.

Although it appears Campione did let go of the cards, the casino arrested him and charged him with disorderly conduct and defiant trespass.

Even after tempers cooled, TropWorld executives refused to drop the charges. Perhaps the case was out of their hands, since a criminal case is prosecuted by the state. Perhaps, the casino wanted to make an example. Or, perhaps, the casino executives just lacked common sense.

The result was, of course, a finding of not guilty.

Campione then sued for malicious prosecution, as well as discrimination. The jury came back with a verdict of $1,519,873.43 -- $300,625.87 against TropWorld and Imperatrice for discriminating against Campione because he was a cardcounter; $219,034.06 against TropWorld and Scully for malicious prosecution; and $1,000,213.50 in punitive damages.

In June, the Appellate Court reversed, in an opinion that leaves cardcounters in New Jersey virtually without any rights.

The Court held that players cannot sue -- they can only complain to the Commission. This, despite the fact that the Commission itself feels it does not have the power to hear player complaints.

The Court had to ignore the law in order to find that the Commission may award money to a player. The Casino Control Act never mentions the Commission awarding compensations -- let alone punitive damages, to a player when a casino has violated its rules. The Act only allows "restitution," which the Court weakly concluded "may also include the power to make a patron whole by ordering payment to a patron as if the bet had been won."

Campione was told to go ask the Commission to order TropWorld to pay him $700.

In a sad and bizarre twist, Campione really did lose everything: While the appeal was pending, he passed away.

At least he died believing there was justice in New Jersey.

Editor notes:

Related Links - Campion Vs Adimar of New Jersey

Last Update 11/23/98