5 casino controversies that you need to know about

  • 5 of the best casino scandals of recent times
  • Shocking, funny, and interesting casino controversies you should know about

The world of casinos, be it online or offline, has had its fair share of scandals and controversial situations.

Casino controversies
Casino controversies you need to know about

In fact, there’ve been so many casino scandals over the years and decades the industry has been around that it could fill an entire book the size of Encyclopedia Britannica.

From the hundreds of these occurrences, we’ve picked our top five controversies that really stand out from the rest in some of the aspects. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Underage player wins $500,000 on PokerStars

PokerStars is the biggest online poker site in the world. Although they stand out in many aspects, they are probably most famous for their Sunday Million tournaments, especially the Anniversary additions, where they guarantee huge prizes for top finishers.

Back in 2011, the site hosted their 5th Anniversary Sunday Million, attracting nearly 60,000 players. When this number dwindled down to final nine, they agreed to a chop which saw Jimmy ‘zeurrr’ Jonker “win” more than $500,000. It seemed like a real Cinderella story, as Jonker won his seat in the tournament via a $2 online casino tournament.

However, the fairytale was short-lived, as it was discovered the player from the Netherlands was playing underage, which was against PokerStars Terms & Conditions.

Despite a part of the poker community supporting Jonker’s claim to the money, the law was clearly on PokerStars’ side, and possibly the unluckiest lucky poker player in the history got nothing. In a somewhat ironical twist, the site donated his prize money to a charity fighting problem gambling.

$8.5 million slot jackpot turns out to be an error

A couple of years ago, in 2015, Veronica Castillo was having a good time spinning some reels at Rochester’s Lucky Eagle Casino. Although she was only playing with $100, all of a sudden the machine went crazy and announced she won an $8.5 million jackpot!

It goes without saying that Mrs. Castillo was overcome with joy and excitement, but these feelings were quickly substituted with anger and disappointment. When the casino staff came to see what had happened, they explained the slot had malfunctioned and that Veronica won only $80.

Although this decision infuriated her, it was clear that the “win” was the result of a malfunction, and every slot in every gambling joint on the planet has a sticker that says “malfunction voids all pays and plays.”

At least she has a good story to tell, although I don’t think I could stomach even looking at another slot machine after something like this.

Casinos lose thousands due to Game King poker machines bug

In 2009, the man by the name John Kane stumbled upon a serious bug in Game King poker machines. Kane was an avid video poker player, and his “hobby” helped him lose hundreds of thousands over the years. However, his luck changed all of a sudden. Kane discovered that the machine’s versatility was also its downfall.

What John had discovered was that you could change your betting denomination retroactively, allowing you to play at the lowest wager of 1c for as long as you’d like until you hit a big hand, four aces or a royal flush, for example. At that point, Kane was able to fool the machine into thinking he was playing at 50c a hand, and make a huge payout.

It wasn’t easy thing to do, but over time, Kane and his friend Nestor perfected the procedure and were able to do it almost seamlessly.

They attacked casinos all over Las Vegas and won hundreds of thousands before they were finally discovered. Although they were arrested and charged, it turned out the state didn’t have enough grounds for an actual trial, and both men were released.

There are still some Game King video pokers out there featuring the same bug, as it was way too expensive to decommission and replace dozens of thousands of machines all over the world.

Roulette cheating ring from NY rips off casinos across the US

In 2012, a roulette cheating ring was discovered and stopped in Ohio. The group that consisted of some 70 people attacked casinos all over the US with a scheme was simple and ingenious at the same time.

Scammers would join a roulette table placing low $1 bets. As usual, they’d be assigned chips of a certain color to make it easy for the croupiers to keep track of the bets.

Then, when the dealer wasn’t looking, they’d pocket some of the chips and then secretly pass them to a partner playing with the same-colored chips at a different table. The trick was that partner was playing at a much higher denomination, so $100 worth of blue chips, for example, would suddenly become $500 worth.

It took casinos a while to catch on, probably exactly because this scheme was, in principle, so basic and simple.

Phil Ivey & high-limit baccarat controversy

Phil Ivey is famous as one of the best poker players alive, but he’s also an avid gambler who enjoys high stakes craps and other table games like baccarat.

In 2012, the high roller hit baccarat tables at Crockfords Casino in London, eventually winning $9.6 million. However, the casino refused to pay out Ivey’s winnings, accusing him of cheating.

Ivey wasted no time admitting he used a technique known as edge-sorting to gain an advantage at the tables, with the help of his friend Cheng Yin Sun, but he remained adamant that he wasn’t cheating. The edge sorting technique allows players to significantly improve their winning chances by recognizing slight irregularities on the cards’ backs.

It later turned out Ivey used the same technique when playing baccarat at Atlantic City’s Borgata. Hearing about Crockford’s case, Borgata was quick to sue Ivey to the tune of $10 million, requesting the high roller to pay back all of his winnings (and a little bit on top of that).

Both cases are still being processed by the courts, although things don’t look so good for Ivey, as he lost the initial trials and a couple of appeals, so he is now one step away from officially being out $9.6 million, and on the line for another $10,000,000.

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