The Federalist: Casinos Too Big to Return Phil Ivey’s Millions

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  • ”Edge sorting” not illegal and clearly Phil Ivey and his companion did nothing wrong, writer asserts
  • Casino Control Act stipulation should not have applied to Ivey and his actions where ultimately he was denied close to $10 million in winnings
  • Federalist writers suggests that casinos are are permitted to operate almost as separate sovereignties

The Federalist, a popular media outlet devoted to discussing "the philosophical underpinnings of the day's debate", has come to the defense of poker pro Phil Ivey.  The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City recently denied Ivey winnings garnered in a game of baccarat after it was learned that the poker phenom took advantage of defects in player cards to provide an edge.

Those winnings totaled $9.6 million.  The Borgata claims Ivey cheated though he was never charged with a crime.

The Federalist writer Kyle Sammin agrees with a number of experts, some of whom have spoken directly to, who argue that “edge sorting” is not a form of cheating.

The practice, known as “edge sorting,” did not violate any of the rules of baccarat, nor did it conflict with the terms agreed upon by the casino and the gamblers.

He cites the Casino Control Act stipulation that “bans anyone from knowingly using cards ”which have in any manner been marked or tampered with, or placed in a condition, or operated in a manner, the result of which tends to deceive the public or tends to alter the normal random selection of characteristics or the normal chance of the game which could determine or alter the result of the game.”

Sammin states that the rule “is clearly intended to prevent players from marking cards, or working with a casino employee to help them cheat” and that neither Ivey or his companion were accused of engaging in this practice.

In the end, The Federal piece concludes that casinos like the Borgata “are permitted to operate almost as separate sovereignties”.

Sammin provides some examples to better illustrate his point:

They (the casinos) are also exempt from all sorts of other laws. New Jersey prohibits smoking indoors at any workplace or public place. But there’s an exception for casinos. The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control rigorously regulates everything to do with the sale and consumption of alcohol in New Jersey. Guess which kind of business is allowed to vary these rules because of the “uniqueness” of their industry? Yes, casinos have an exception for that, too. The state of New Jersey has found reasons to regulate a lot of things they find harmful, but when it interferes with casinos’ operations, they turn into libertarians.

- Gilbert Horowitz,