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Billionaire Wins Casino Suit

Houston billionaire wins big in casino lawsuit leaving gamblers he offered to pay holding nothing

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Tilman Fertitta, September 2012, head shot
A New Jersey court ruled in favor Tilman Fertitta and his Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City. Courtesy Photo
Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Fourteen mini-baccarat players at The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City have to pay the casino $1.5 million. Photo Courtesy of Golden Nugget Casino/Facebook
Tilman Fertitta, September 2012, head shot
Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Mini Baccarat Table

A good gambler's first rule of betting is knowing when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em and when to take an offer from hotel and restaurant magnate Tilman Fertitta, Houston's own billionaire casino tycoon. A judge recently ruled in favor of  Fertitta’s Golden Nugget Atlantic City casino in a court battle, leaving 14 mini-baccarat players out of more than $1.5 million in winnings.

The suit stems from an April 2012 mini-baccarat game where a group of players recognized a pattern in the card shuffling and began to increase their bets from $10 to $5,000. After 41 hands of mini-baccarat, the group cashed in $900,000 in chips, leaving approximately $600,000 in uncashed winnings behind.

 “We will go after their property and assets. Some of them may file for bankruptcy. It didn’t have to be like this.” 

The casino refused to pay the remaining winnings, saying the game was illegal because the cards were not pre-shuffled correctly. Kansas City playing card manufacturer Gemaco admitted the cards were not shuffled correctly when they were delivered to the Golden Nugget.

In August 2012, the mini-baccarat players won a ruling forcing the Golden Nugget to pay the remainder of the winnings. The Golden Nugget lawyers immediately vowed to appeal, but Fertitta himself stepped in and offered to cash in all of the remaining chips at 100 percent face value as long the 14 gamblers would dismiss any other claims against the casino (which includes a counter suit for illegal detention).

The gamblers and their legal team refused the offer.

Steve Scheinthal, executive vice president and general counsel for Landry’s & Golden Nugget tells CultureMap the mini-baccarat players had their chance to work with the casino, but they gambled — and lost. Big. The group of gamblers will now have to repay the money, whether they have it or not.

“They had an opportunity for this to go away, but they were greedy,” Scheinthal says. “We will go after their property and assets. Some of them may file for bankruptcy. It didn’t have to be like this.”

New Jersey Superior Court judge James Isman issued an order that the mini-baccarat game was void and all players participating in the game must return all outstanding chips and all cash money won during the game.

So, instead of a $1.5 million payout, the group now must return all of their gambling chips to the Golden Nugget along with approximately $900,000.

Despite Gordon Gekko’s thoughts, sometimes greed isn’t always good.

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