The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has set aside exclusion orders issued against two patrons by Star Entertainment Group for alleged cheating while playing Pontoon at The Star Gold Coast in 2018.
In a landmark decision, the tribunal ruled that no grounds existed for the exclusion order issued to Mark Grant and Nathan Anderson because Star, which had accused them of card counting and edge sorting, among others, had failed to prove that their actions affected the proper conduct or integrity of the game.
The duo were excluded from Star’s Queensland properties The Star Gold Coast and Treasury Brisbane in 2018 after staff allegedly observed the pair working together to gain an advantage while playing Pontoon. In particular, Star alleged they had breached Queensland’s Casino Control Act by card counting; behaviour akin to “edge sorting”, slouching in order to view the cards that are being dealt; and collusion concerning play through hand signalling and other gestures.
Star’s legal team also referenced a famous 2017 case between poker player and professional gambler Phil Ivey and London’s Crockfords Casino in which the court ruled Ivey had gained an unfair advantage by using edge sorting to win around £7.7 million across multiple sessions of Punto Banco. Edge sorting is a technique where players detect tiny imperfections on the backs of some playing cards to determine which cards are about to be dealt from the shoe.
According to Star, Grant and Anderson had engaged in similar behavior with Grant sitting himself closest to the shoe to observe the patterns on the backs of its cards and signalling to Anderson whether to hit, stand or double. Detailed analysis of the decks in question found that around two-thirds of those cards found to have some minor imperfections were of a lower value.
However, in a decision handed down earlier this month, the tribunal ruled there was insufficient evidence to draw an inference that observing the asymmetry on the back of cards and attempting to use that information had affected or potentially affected the integrity of the game by tipping the chance of success in the mens’ favor.
“I have found that there is not sufficient evidence to establish that Mr Grant and Mr Anderson knew that, probably, if you got a card with an anomaly in it, it would be a lower numbered card,” the judge wrote in his decision, adding that any “good fortune” they enjoyed may just as easily have been from skill or luck.
“I find that there was no sound basis … to form a reasonable belief that the conduct of Mr Grant and Mr Anderson affected the proper conduct or integrity of gaming for the reasons submitted by Star. In addition, for the reasons given when addressing the question of dishonesty, I do not consider that there has been any lack of fairness or honesty in the conduct of Mr Grant and Mr Anderson which go to the question of integrity of gaming.”