Springfields new MGM casino shows a veteran card counter the door

Springfield\s new MGM casino shows a veteran card counter the door

Springfields new MGM casino shows a veteran card counter the door

Hyland, a professional blackjack player who travels the country and uses card-counting strategies to improve his chances of winning, says he was kicked out of MGM Springfield earlier this week, and unceremoniously escorted off the property.

Though card-counting is not illegal, casino companies hate it and will refuse to let what they call “advantage players” place bets. (For his part, Hyland prefers the term “skilled player.”)

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MGM Springfield’s president, Mike Mathis, declined to say just how the casino recognizes card counters, but confirmed the casino has confronted “a handful” of them since opening Aug. 24. As the first licensed resort casino in Massachusetts, MGM Springfield offers the first live table games, such as blackjack.

“Bottom line, it is permissible under state law, under our regulations, because we’re private property, to [remove] anyone we identify as an advantage, card-counting player,” Mathis said Thursday. The practice of removing card counters “is generally accepted through most jurisdictions, because those individual are also taking revenue out of the state’s hands.”

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, through a spokesman, confirmed that “ultimately, the decision to remove a patron is under the purview of MGM management.”

Card counting was the technique employed by the famed MIT Blackjack Team, which inspired the 2008 movie “21.”

Among top-echelon blackjack players, Hyland, 62, of New Jersey, is well-known. He has been playing the game professionally most of his life.

“I’ve had some tremendous wins and devastating losses,” Hyland said. “Overall, I’ve done well enough to make a living at it.” As an occupation, he likes gambling for the independence it offers and the mental challenge it provides.

Of course, in a game that involves luck as well as skill, even the best players lose money sometimes. Hyland said he has made two trips to MGM Springfield and finished down about $3,000. (The state’s cut will be $750.)

To put it simply, card counters keep track of the cards that have been dealt onto the blackjack table. From what has been dealt, they deduce what cards have not yet been played.

If lots of high cards are still available, the upcoming hands favor the player. You might want to increase your wager.

There are different techniques to keep track of the cards. For example, a card counter may maintain a running mental number, adding or subtracting as each card is dealt. When that number hits certain benchmarks, the player knows whether the odds are in his or her favor.

In addition to banning players, casinos will attempt to frustrate card-counters by shuffling the deck more often to ruin the count.

Hyland freely admits he has been thrown out of other MGM properties, and he is sure they have his photograph in a file of skilled players, shared among all of the company’s casinos. The casinos also hire people who understand card counting to work in security and be on the lookout for players who are using such techniques, he said.

Sometimes, he said, casino employees who recognize him will wave him off as soon as they spot him, saying, “C’mon, Tommy, you know we can’t let you play here.’ ”

“They act like there’s something underhanded about it,” he said. “I’m just using math and memory.”

BOSTON (AP) — Attendance from MGMs nearly $1 billion casino in Massachusetts is exceeding expectations, and revenues appear strong nearly a month after opening, MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis told state regulators Thursday.

Mathis and other MGM officials updating the state Gaming Commission said the hotel, casino and entertainment complex is averaging around 50,000 daily visitors on weekends and about 25,000 daily visitors during the work week since its Aug. 24 opening.

The companys early projections estimated around 15,000 to 20,000 visitors daily to the 14-acre (5.5-hectare) facility, which is the first of its kind in the state.

The state Gaming Commission is expected to release its monthly casino revenue report Monday. The state collects 25 percent of the facilitys gross gambling revenues.

MGM had projected four years ago that it could generate roughly $500 million a year from its casino. But Mathis cautioned Thursday not to draw any quick conclusions from early revenue figures when theyre released.

Mathis also told regulators the casino is exceeding most of the hiring targets set out in its agreement with the city of Springfield.

That includes hiring at least 35 percent of its staff from the city. Springfield residents currently comprise nearly 38 percent of its employees, Mathis said.

The only target MGM isnt meeting is for women on staff. About 46 percent of its employees are female, but its target was 50 percent, he said.

MGM is also working with the city to meet its commitment to providing at least 54 market rate housing units downtown as part of its investment, Mathis said.

But a new challenge that has emerged since the casinos opening is unattended minors on the property. Casino officials are finding that some parents leave their children in other parts of the casino while they go off and gamble, Mathis said.

MGM, in response, has imposed new rules, including a requirement that children under age 16 be accompanied by an adult, wherever they are on the property.

The company has also imposed a curfew. No one under 21 will be allowed in the resort after midnight, with the exception of hotel guests and patrons of the casinos movie theater, which opens later this month.

State Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian, meanwhile, told regulators Thursday his staff needs more time to complete its investigation into Wynn Resorts, which is building a nearly $2 billion casino across from Boston, slated to open next year.

Theyre looking into how the Las Vegas company handled allegations of sexual misconduct against founder Steve Wynn that surfaced this year.

Wynn resigned as chairman and CEO but denies the allegations. The company also renamed its casino in Everett from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor.

Bedrosian said the Massachusetts investigation, which could result in sanctions for the company, is in its final stages, but didnt say when it might be complete.


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