Star Entertainment Loses Legal Battle against 2 Patrons after Labelling Them Cheaters

Daniel Williams

Two gamblers finally won their legal battle against Australia’s gambling giant the Star Entertainment Group after the company accused them of cheating at its Brisbane and Gold Coast properties several years ago. Star Entertainment prohibited Mark Timothy Grant and Nathan Trent Anderson from entering its Queensland casinos in 2018 after the pair played Pontoon, a banking card game similar to Spanish Blackjack.

The players subsequently turned to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), an independent body that deals with dispute resolution. In 2020, Anderson and Grant sought a review of the exclusion notices the gambling giant issued against them two years earlier. QCAT revoked the notices this month after determining there are no sufficient grounds for the pair’s expulsion from Star’s Brisbane and Gold Coast venues.

The Patrons Were Accused of Edge Sorting

The gambling company alleged Mr Grant implemented edge sorting, a form of advantage play currently prohibited under the Casino Control Act. Gamblers who resort to this technique look for manufacturing defects and imperfections on the backs of the cards. Said defects allow them to identify specific cards and potentially gain an edge over the casino.

Mr Grant was seated close to the dealer during the gaming session that precipitated the exclusion notices. Rather than participating in the game, he gestured to his friend giving him hints about which cards he should play. Star alleged the two gamblers exploited defects in the table equipment to derive a benefit.

Mr Grant told the tribunal that the gambling company had previously investigated him for the way he played. According to the QCAT judgement, Grant referred to himself as an advantage player but insisted his techniques posed no threat to gambling operators provided that their personnel were competent and ran the games correctly.

He insisted that advantage play was neither dishonest nor a form of cheating and denied any edge sorting on his behalf. The technique was inapplicable to Pontoon as players were prohibited from touching the cards, Mr Grant argued. Competitive players like Mr Grant had the right to make assumptions about which cards were to appear next, the judgement said.

He took notice of the fact the cards in play were asymmetrical and was free to hypothesise which would be the next dealt card, according to the judgement. However, Mr Grant did not know with absolute certainty what the next card was during any stage of the game.

Star Was Aware of Irregularities at Card Backs

The tribunal heard the table Grant and Anderson played at used cards manufactured by the Kyoto-based Angel Group. The Angel brand of cards had been subject to previous discussions during a similar court case. The Japanese manufacturer alleged at the time that any anomalies or defects fell within the contractual tolerance of no more than 0.3 millimetres.

The judgement said Star knew of the anomalies associated with this brand of playing cards. In the case of Mr Grant, as many as 96 of all cards in play were defective but the gambling operator continued to allow their use despite being fully aware of said irregularities.

The judgement also argued Pontoon was not based on chance and thus, the asymmetries at the backs of the cards were useless unless the player knew the exact denominations. A substantial range of skills was required to make a correct guess.

QCAT said that 33% of the cards were irregular in Mr Grant’s case, with 20% of those having a low value compared to 13% being of high value. It would have been extremely difficult for anyone to gain an advantage under those circumstances, not to mention all parties involved apparently knew about the defects. The tribunal subsequently ruled in favour of the gamblers and ordered the revocation of the exclusion notices.

Olivia Cole

Olivia Cole has worked as a journalist for several years now. Over the last couple of years she has been engaged in writing about a number of industries and has developed an interest for the gambling market in the UK.

Daniel Williams

Author: Dale Alvarez