Two frequent gamblers sued SugarHouse Casino on Wednesday, claiming they collectively lost $250,000 while the casino used malfunctioning card shufflers and decks that had too few or too many cards.
The suit, filed in federal court in Philadelphia, comes seven months after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fined the casino $100,000 for dealing cards from “illegitimate” decks. In October, the board said casino employees failed to address warning lights on automated shufflers used at blackjack, poker, and mini-baccarat tables in seven incidents from May 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018.
In one May 2017 incident, a casino employee found 16 cards left in an automatic shuffler that had been removed from service, according to the complaint. Investigators who retraced the cards found the cards were missing from six decks that were used in 46 rounds of blackjack the previous day, involving 122 hands.
During a poker tournament in September 2017, a dealer mistakenly set the automatic shuffler to sort cards in sequential order by suit instead of randomly shuffling the deck, the complaint says.
Anthony Mattia of Philadelphia and William Vespe, a Cherry Hill resident, filed the complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Mattia claims he lost roughly $147,000 at SugarHouse during the period the incidents occurred, while Vespe claims he lost more than $103,000. They argue that the Philadelphia casino failed to provide a level playing field in card games and caused them to suffer significant losses in those games.
Their complaint accuses SugarHouse and its parent company, Rush Street Gaming, of negligence, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, among other claims. They seek unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs of suit.
“Based on the fact that SugarHouse apparently had been using broken equipment and ‘illegitimate’ decks for at least seven months, we think it is fair to question the integrity of the thousands of card games that were played at SugarHouse at tables using that equipment and those decks,” Conrad J. Benedetto, one attorney for the two plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Steven Feinstein of Optimum Law Group is also representing Mattia and Vespe.
In a statement, a SugarHouse spokesperson said the company denied the claims in the lawsuit.
“The integrity of our gaming operations is of the utmost importance," the spokesperson said. "We have disciplined or terminated the employees responsible, and revised procedures to help prevent recurrence. We deny the claims made by the individuals in this lawsuit, and cannot comment further on pending litigation.”
In another incident cited in the lawsuit, SugarHouse dealers deployed decks with too many cards in a game of Spanish 21, a version of blackjack in which 10s are normally removed. But casino employees found that 10s had not been removed from several decks after 27 hands had been dealt, including 18 hands that contained 10s, the complaint says.
That violation resulted in a $12,500 fine, while other infractions separately cost SugarHouse $87,500 in penalties, according to the complaint.