A lot of serious gamblers believe that they have perfected techniques that enable them to enter a Casino and sway odds in their favour coming out with millions of pounds in winnings.
Mathematical techniques have been shown to work in the past with MIT students perfecting card counting techniques that swayed odds in their favour. The mathematical based ‘card counting’ techniques are perfectly legal, though Casinos have adapted how the game is played to sway odds back in their favour.
Some gamblers employ techniques that are clearly dishonest, like bribing croupiers, or marking cards or employing surveillance techniques to see other people’s cards. The question is how far can you go before you are deemed to be ‘cheating’?
This was looked at recently at the Supreme Court in the case of R v Ivey. Mr Ivey played Baccarat at the Crockford’s Casino over the course of a few days. He worked the table with an assistant Miss Sun.
Baccarat is a game played between a nominal ‘player’ and ‘the bank’. It is a points based game whereby the punter can bet on either ‘the players’ hand or ‘ the bankers’ hand. The hand with points closest to 9 wins the game. Certain cards, namely 7, 8 and 9 are high value cards.
Mr Ivey’s technique was to edge sort the cards so he could spot the higher value cards. In patterned cards there can be micro – millimetre discrepancies between the 2 edges. His associate would ask the croupier to rotate the high value cards in such a manner that he could spot them when they were next played. Once the sorted cards came back into play, his betting odds increased in his favour dramatically. Over the course of several days he won £7 million from a £1 million stake. The Casino refused to pay his winnings and suggested that they didn’t have to because he was cheating.
Gambling and the Law
The Gambling Act 2005 regulates betting. It states that if a player plays fairly then the Casino is obliged to pay the winnings to them. However Section 336 (4) gives the Casino the power to void a bet when the player cheated.
Cheating is defined under section 42 and clarified under subsection (3) as, amongst other things, any interference in connection with the process by which gambling is conducted.
The Court felt that under the particular circumstances Mr Ivey had interfered in the process of gambling in this particular case, by manipulating the cards in a manner that increased his chances of winning, and accepted that the Casino did not have to pay him back.
Dishonesty and Cheating
Mr Ivey’s legal team had argued that his technique was legitimate and not dishonest. They further argued that he had to be found dishonest to be guilty of cheating.
The Court disagreed that dishonesty was an essential element of cheating. However they then went further and redefined the law in relation to dishonesty.
The law had previously employed the test in R v Ghosh:-
“..the judge has been required to direct the jury, if the point arises, to apply a two-stage test. Firstly, it must ask whether in its judgment the conduct complained of was dishonest by the lay objective standards of ordinary reasonable and honest people. If the answer is no, that disposes of the case in favour of the defendant. But if the answer is yes, it must ask, secondly, whether the defendant must have realised that ordinary honest people would so regard his behaviour, and he is to be convicted only if the answer to that second question is yes.”
The Court felt that this test was inappropriate for various reasons (see paras 54-73). The Court then laid down the following test as being appropriate and in doing so significantly changed the law:-
“When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”
The Court concluded that in Mr Ivey’s case that under this new test his actions could also be seen as dishonest, thereby completely destroying his legal argument.
Toby Wilbraham’s Conclusion
If you want to beat the system employ a technique that has no impact on the game itself. If you don’t have a cast iron system, don’t play the game. Written by Toby Wilbraham. Toby is a highly experienced criminal defence solicitor and Higher Court Advocate who deals with the full spectrum of criminal cases.