Disgruntled Gambler Claims Encore Boston Harbor Gives New Meaning to ‘The House Always Wins’

Posted on: July 16, 2019, 07:45h. 

Last updated on: July 16, 2019, 08:31h.

A New York man is suing Wynn Resorts’ recently opened Encore Boston Harbor, claiming the Everett, Mass. casino did not pay him properly at the blackjack table and that the operator withheld some of his slot machine winnings without consent.

Just weeks after opening, Encore Boston Harbor has a civil suit on its hands, courtesy of a disgruntled player. (Image: CNBC)

In a suit filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on behalf of A. Richard Schuster, the plaintiff’s attorney claims Encore Boston Harbor pays blackjack players at 6-to-5 odds rather than 3-to-2. The difference between the two odds is considerable. On a $50 hand at 3/2 odds, a player dealt blackjack receives $75, but at 6/5 odds, a dealt blackjack results in a $60 payout.

Assuming an average wager of $50.00 per hand and 80 hands of Blackjack per hour, Encore’s customers can expect to lose $35.60 per hour more than the losses they are already expected to incur in a fair Blackjack game that complies with Massachusetts law,” according to the suit.

Schuster’s attorney, Joshua Garrick, purports in the court filing that Encore Boston Harbor is pilfering $85,440 a day from its customers by not properly compensating winning blackjack hands, a total that would exceed $30 million annually.

Wynn Resorts told MassLive it follows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s (MGC) rules for blackjack winnings.

Casinos that offer both versions of blackjack usually post the odds on a sign at the tables. Plus, it should be easy for discerning players to know the difference because 6/5 “21” is usually played with just one or two decks of cards and the cards are dealt face down while standard 3/2 blackjack features a shoe of six to eight decks with cards being distributed face up.

There’s More

Assuming players adhere to sound blackjack strategy, the house advantage in the game is usually around half a percent, but participants that do something like hitting on a 16 when the dealer is showing a three (not an advisable play) can bump that edge up to two percent.

Schuster’s attorney alleges Encore Boston Harbor is bolstering its natural house edge with the alleged 6/5 ploy.

“In violation of Massachusetts law, Encore has coupled the ‘6 to 5 blackjack variation’ rules that are favorable to the house, with the traditional rules that are also favorable to the house,” according to the suit. “This is designed to maximize the casino’s advantage far in excess of that which is permitted under either variation of Blackjack that is approved by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.”

Schuster’s suit also claims the casino only pays out slot winnings in whole dollar amounts and rounds down. In a hypothetical example, a player wins $100.50 on an Encore Boston Harbor gaming machine, decides to call it a night and gets a receipt to take to the cashier for $100, with the casino keeping the 50 cents.

The suit was filed as a class action, but for now Schuster is the only plaintiff.

“The lawsuit seeks to certify a class consisting of all Encore Boston Harbor casino customers who played a slot machine or Blackjack at a table offering a payout of 6 to 5 when being dealt a blackjack,” according to Garrick.

Controversy, But A Fast Start

In its first week in business and despite opening on a Sunday night, Encore Boston Harbor notched gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $16.7 million. To give that figure some context, MGM Springfield had GGR of $19.95 million for all of June.

The $2.6 billion gaming venue has been ensconced in controversy, even prior to its opening on June 23. In May, the MGC hit Wynn Resorts with $35.5 million in fines, including $500,000 aimed at CEO Matt Maddox, for allegedly hiding sexual misconduct complaints against founder Steve Wynn when the company was bidding for a Bay State gaming license in 2013.

Later that month, reports surfaced that Wynn was in talks with MGM Resorts to potentially sell Encore Boston Harbor, but those discussions were quashed.

Late last month, just days after the venue opened, subcontractors complained Wynn still owed them money for worked performed on the property, with some of those open invoices reaching as high as $30 million.