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Suddenly, in the fall, the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) directed 41-plus casinos to cease operation of specific electronic blackjack machines because they were “experiencing difficulties when played so as to render the devices more liable to win or lose” (Nevada State Journal, Oct. 21, 1966).
These 101 devices, available in gambling rooms in Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Elko, Wells and Hawthorne and manufactured by Nevada Electronics, Inc., played like a slot machine with no dealer and were popular.
Because the NGC wouldn’t say more, mystery surrounded the issue. All, however, was revealed shortly.
It turned out these particular blackjack machines disfavored the player more than the hand-dealt version. This was because these electronic versions removed a card worth 10 points from the deck in play. This trick results in fewer blackjacks and boosts the casino’s edge by about half a percent, which doesn’t sound significant but is.
“Removing 10-value cards from play, whether by design of the game or by malfunction, requires some powerful, positive rules to make up for the impact it has on the odds of the game. If there really are 10-value cards missing from a deck in a regular blackjack game, you don’t want to play,” said gaming expert, John Grochowski (grochowski.casinocitytimes.com, Oct. 26, 2010).
Signs on the devices identified them as automatic blackjack games, thereby deceiving players into thinking they offered odds that were equivalent to games with a human dealer — which some blackjack machines actually did.
The suspect ones, however, did disclose, at the bottom of the game’s instructions, the 10-value card removal.
To satisfy the NGC, the distributor of the machines eliminated the automatic blackjack demarcation and replaced the instruction plates with ones where the card removal warning appeared at the top.
Once that was completed, about a month later, the gambling regulatory agency lifted the suspension.