Lawsuit Filed Against MGM Springfield as Confusion Over Blackjack Odds Reigns in Massachusetts

Posted on: August 2, 2019, 11:55h. 

Last updated on: August 2, 2019, 03:12h.

In Massachusetts, a second class-action lawsuit has emerged over casino blackjack odds, this time directed at the MGM Springfield.

Massachusetts blackjack
The MGM Springfield — like the Encore Boston Harbor — has become the subject of a class action lawsuit. Confusion over legal blackjack odds appears to have emanated from the MGC’s website. (Image: Hartford Courant)

It makes similar claims to a suit filed last month against the Encore Boston Harbor — namely, that some blackjack tables at the properties are paying out worse odds than state regulations allow, thereby illegally increasing the house edge.

Both suits allege the casinos paid customers odds of 6/5  and that Massachusetts law states that a player who is dealt 21 in a standard blackjack game “shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2.”

A preliminary investigation by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) in response to the Encore lawsuit found the casino was compliant with regulations and that it was not cheating its customers.

The regulator also confirmed casinos are permitted to offer blackjack at both 6/5 and the more customer-friendly 3/2, and that the odds are clearly marked on the blackjack tables themselves.

MGC Typo?

Then why the lawsuits?

The MGC said it believes the confusion has arisen because Massachusetts gaming law also allows casinos to offer a completely different blackjack variation that is called “6 to 5.”

This is different from standard blackjack with slightly different rules and is always offered at 6/5 odds, hence its name.

But the MGC says standard blackjack can be offered at both 3/2 or 6/5, which is what Encore and MGM Springfield have been doing.

If this is confusing, then take comfort that someone at the MGC was also confused enough to make a mistake in the version of blackjack rules that appear on the regulator’s website, a mistake that appears to have inspired the lawsuits.

All winning wagers … shall be paid at odds of 1 to 1 with the exception of standard blackjack which shall be paid at odds of 3 to 2, or at odds of 6 to 5 for the 6 to 5 blackjack variation,” states the website.

Nowhere here does it say standard blackjack is available at odds other than 3/2. It merely says that the “6 to 5 blackjack variation” shall pay odds at 6/5.

And while the 6 to 5 variation is legal in Massachusetts, it is not currently on offer at either of its two casinos.

What Are the Odds? No, Really, What Are They?

But elsewhere in the website text, the MGC says:

“If the licensee chooses the option to pay a blackjack at odd [sic] of 6 to 5 and doesn’t use the 6 to 5 variation then Section 7(c) is void.”

Section 7(c) relates to a specific rule of the 6 to 5 variation and is irrelevant here. What is relevant is that this is the only point at which the version of the rules available on the MGC website mentions, albeit indirectly, the existence of a standard blackjack game paid at 6/5 that is not the 6 to 5 variation.

This reinforces the idea that the rules — at least as they appear on the MGC website — contain a pretty major typo in the first instance, which means the casinos and the public may have been singing to a different songbook.

How that would play out in a court of law is anyone’s guess, although odds are the house wins.