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Massachusetts High Court Hears Arguments Over Blackjack Odds

The MGM Springfield casino.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen
The Republican / masslive.com
The MGM Springfield casino.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Wednesday heard arguments in a pair of cases focusing on whether the state's two resort casinos shorted blackjack players on their winnings.

The plaintiffs in the cases against MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor argue the casinos broke the state's rules by paying off a blackjack hand at odds that slightly favor the casino at 6-5.

Attorneys on both sides, and the justices, went back and forth on an alphabet soup of state regulations.

Joshua Garick for the plaintiffs said gambling rules clearly state "that all blackjacks must be paid at 3-2 odds."

But attorney Wayne Dennison representing the casinos disagreed, and said the regulations are in their favor. He also told the justices that in such a regulated industry, the casinos needed clearance from the gaming commission on many things, including the payouts.

"The regulator says 'yes' when they approve the tables," Dennison said. "They say 'yes' again when the investigation and enforcement bureau looks at the issue."

As he went back and forth discussing different parts of the regulations, Justice David Lowy expressed some frustration over seemingly ambiguous language in the blackjack rules.

"What we have here is a mess," Lowy said.

The state's gaming commission last year moved to clarify the rules — and the cases deal with the timeframe prior to the changes. It also found no wrongdoing on the part of the casinos in this matter.

The separate cases took different paths to the SJC. A lower court had found in favor of MGM Springfield, and the plaintiffs appealed. But a federal court justice said the rules at the time did not allow for the lesser payoff. The cases ended up before the state's high court in light of the differing rulings. 

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.