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Gambling Related Essays and Reports by Andrew W Scott


A Bizzare Barring by Jupiters Casino

June 15th 2007

It was time to do it. I hadn't been there for a long time. It was time to at last go back and play BlackJack at Jupiters casino on the Gold Coast. The last time I was there, several lifetimes ago (well actually 14 years ago), they had kicked me out, as most casinos eventually do, simply for being a good BlackJack player that knows how to beat the system.

Back then I was relatively small fry, betting perhaps an average of $40 a hand with my biggest bet being a few hundred, but they knew I had an edge on the game. For the outrageous crime of actually having a tiny long run advantage over them of perhaps $40 an hour, they had come down on me like a ton of bricks.

But that is what casinos do to me. Their reaction to someone actually having an advantage over them is out of all proportion to the "threat" we so-called "advantage players" pose. We break no rules, we do not cheat, we just use the information that is freely available to all players a little bit more intelligently than most punters do. Like spoilt brats the casinos take their bat and ball away - demanding that the unwanted advantage player leave their casino, or at the very least they change the rules for the "enemy" in their midst, while leaving the rules unchanged for the 99.99% of the normal losing players out there.

We advantage players call those everyday losing players the "civilians". I feel sorry for the civilians, the casinos make hundreds of millions every year from these misguided souls that think they have a chance.

But I digress. My last foray to Jupiters was a long, long time ago and felt to me like a place far, far away. Now I was a different man to that young boy of 1993 - and maybe Jupiters casino had matured too. Maybe their attitude had changed a little. Maybe they too had grown up, and realised that one or two APs winning a tiny miniscule crumb of what the civilians lose wasn't the end of the world. Not bloody likely!

Now I should explain that the gambling Gods have been kind to me over the years, and I am not small fry anymore. No longer do I bet in red $5 chips and green $25 chips. Now it is more like the black $100 chips, the purple $500 chips (known as monkeys) and the $1,000 chips (known as gorillas). Every now and then I am lucky enough to be holding one or two bananas (for those of you that don't know, a banana is the casino gambler's most treasured possession - a $5,000 chip). My original intention was to take $30,000 with me and to play for one night only, the night of State of Origin I, 23rd May 2007, but then I decided to increase my bet size a little so that would require me to take $50,000. I intended to bet as low as $100 sometimes, but often I would bet more than that - and very occasionally I might bet as high as $3,000. My average bet for the night would probably work out to be about $800 or so. If I had a very bad run, I could definitely lose my entire $50,000. If I had a good run, I could double my $50,000 or even more.

Now this is pretty big betting in anyone's language, and ought to afford me that wonderful status of "high roller". In fact, at a medium sized casino like Jupiters, this level of betting makes me one of the bigger high rollers, starting to encroach upon "whale" status. And so it came to pass that I found myself calling Jupiters VIP services to arrange my trip. Ah, Queensland, beautiful one day, sunny the next. Let's see how they react when I tell them who I am. I spoke to a lovely young lady, let's call her Leanne (because that was her name). Leanne sounded like a veritable ray of sunshine down the telephone line, especially when I mentioned that I would be bringing $30,000 along (this was before I realised I'd be needing about $50,000 for my new intended level of betting). I told them my name, my real name (unlike a lot of gamblers) and my date of birth. I made no attempt to obscure my identity in any way. I was put on hold while they went to check their database. I was expecting her to come back and start laughing at me, telling me that I wasn't welcome at their casino. But suddenly Leanne was speaking to me again "Yes, Mr Scott, we will have a Club Conrad card waiting for you upon arrival" she gushed.

Apparently there was no need to establish my bona fides by playing my way up through their levels of betting. Apparently $30,000 talks - it jumps you straight to Club Conrad, where the high rollers play. And if $30,000 talks, $50,000 talks even louder. Leanne went on to explain that if I bet at the level that I said I would, of course my hotel room would be on the house, as would any other little annoyances such as food, drinks, airfare, and so on. I told her that I would make my own way from the airport to the casino, a limousine was unnecessary. All this was simply based on the fact that I said that I was bringing $30,000 cash.

I arrived at the casino and checked in, telling them that I actually had $50,000 not $30,000. "That's fine" came the reply. Yeah, I bet it is! My money was counted out at the casino cashier (universally known as "the cage" in the industry) and I was given a receipt for it. After dutifully supplying 100 points of ID (my passport and two credit cards), I was issued with a nice shiny new Club Conrad card - my key to Club Conrad, the salubrious high rollers room on the seventh floor of Jupiters.

I had a couple of friends with me that I had met at the Gold Coast. We noticed that Jupiters had a special invitation-only function on for the State of Origin, so I asked if I could get the three of us in. "Of course, Mr Scott" came the reply. When you're a high roller, and they think they are going to make big money out of you, the red carpet gets rolled out, doors are opened and anything seems possible. The three of us watched the State of Origin at Jupiter's special function, on their big screens, eating their food and drinking their drinks. After the game, it was time to gamble. On our way to Club Conrad, the members-only high rollers enclave, we walked past the main floor, otherwise known as the main grind. This is where the $5 bettors drip-feed out their small bankrolls, one red chip at a time until it is finally all gone. This is where the real junk games are. You just can't beat these games. Jupiter's BlackJack game on the main floor uses the dreaded continuous shuffling machines, which makes the game impossible to beat. Only low roller types will accept these kinds of junk games. High rollers won't stand for it, and demand a better quality game.

We ascended the lift to Club Conrad, on the seventh floor. Behind the frosted glass doors of Club Conrad is a world totally removed from the main grind. This is the world of green, black and purple chips, a full bar with no need for a cash register (all the drinks are free), and a cage used to dealing in hundreds of thousands. I went to the cage and got ten $5,000 CPVs issued to me. CPVs are a convenient way for high rolling punters to carry money around - they are a bit like cheques that draw on the money one has on deposit at the cage. The three of us sat down and chatted whilst enjoying our free drinks. Half an hour went by - with no hint of anyone recognising me. It really looked like I was going to get some real live BlackJack play in!

I approached a hundred dollar minimum table, signed my first $5,000 CPV, and cashed it in over the table. $5,000 worth of chips was pushed over to me and I placed my first bet. I was underway! About 90 minutes passed with little incident. I played, I won some, I lost some. Such is the nature of BlackJack. While the game I was playing had an expected win of probably a few hundred dollars an hour, the actual result that can happen in any one individual hour can be anything. At the level I was betting, I could very easily win or lose tens of thousands of dollars in a few minutes. But eventually, if I played long enough, I should come out in front by a few hundred bucks for every hour I played.

Out of nowhere I hit a very bad run and suddenly I was down $25,000. No problem, that's what happens. Keep going. And I did, merrily playing BlackJack alongside my fellow VIP gamblers. Then just as suddenly, I had a great run of cards, and won about $15,000 in a matter of a couple of minutes.

That's when it happened. "Excuse me sir, could I have a word with you" came a voice from over my left shoulder. I spun around and asked "is there a problem?" "Yes, there is - can I see your Club Conrad card please". Now of course I was half expecting this. I am very well known in the casino industry in Australia, and at one time or another have been banned or restricted in 12 of Australia's 13 casinos (I still haven't got around to going to the Reef casino in Cairns - but I am sure the story there will be the same). I later found out this man was the Duty Manager of the Casino (the most senior person in the casino at that moment), but let's just call him Mr Suit. Mr Suit was accompanied by about half a dozen "security" staff of the casino, which made me feel a whole lot less secure. I have always referred to such people as "goons". In all my years of going to casinos (now twenty of them), I have never thrown my fist in anger in a casino. But I have been surrounded by a lot of goons.

Now I should mention that Tabcorp, the company that owns Jupiters, does not have a good track record when it comes to their goon's handling of patrons. Tabcorp also owns Star City casino in Sydney, and their goons killed a patron, Peter Dalamangas. Star City's goons used unjustifiable force, with up to seven of them restraining and hog-tieing poor Mr Dalamangas so hard that he died. Tabcorp has admitted liability in the case.

Anyway, back to Mr Suit. After his inspection of my Club Conrad card, issued to me only hours earlier, Mr Suit said something that was both hilarious and bizarre: "You are not Andrew Scott." Now this was very weird, they had taken photocopies of my passport and two of my credit cards just hours earlier. I could see this barring was going to be handled very badly. "Um, I think I know who I am", I replied. "You are not Andrew Scott", he repeated, "He is!" he said, pointing at my friend. Ok, now this was just too weird. Mr Suit went on, pointing at my friend, "Sir, this card has been issued to you in error, because you are not Andrew Scott, that person over there is".

I knew this contention was going to be easy to disprove. I produced my passport, held it open to the picture page, and held it up to my face, showing him that the picture indeed matched me, and the name on the passport was indeed Andrew Scott. I then proceeded to observe his confusion. Mr Suit became very flustered, realising that he had made some sort of mistake. "Well, whoever you are, this card has been issued to you in error". I went on to explain that I was indeed Andrew Scott, as my passport proved, and that as far as I was concerned there was no error as the card was issued to me hours earlier by VIP services, on the strength of my fifty grand deposited in the cage. As any casino employee or punter knows, under anything but the most bizarre circumstances, a person depositing $50,000 at the cage would be afforded the opportunity to lose his money at Club Conrad.

But, it appeared these were indeed bizarre circumstances. My friends knew better than to get involved - this was starting to become very uncomfortable. So, quite rightly, they hung back from the scene that was developing. Mr Suit regained his composure and said to me that it didn't matter who I was, that he was asking me to pick up my remaining chips ($39,300 worth including my remaining CPVs) and leave. I had the audacity to ask why. "Because I can" was the answer. We went round and round in circles for a while: Me: Why are you asking me to leave? I am clearly not intoxicated, I am not being rude, I am doing nothing wrong. In fact I have brought $50,000 to play with and I am currently losing $10,700. I am the sort of player that casinos love! What have I done? Mr Suit: I have given the reason. The reason is that I am asking you to leave. Now, pick up your chips and go. Me: You haven't given me a reason. You simply asked me to go. I am prepared to go, but I would like to know why. Why would you ask someone who is doing nothing wrong to go? Surely you want customers, don't you? Mr Suit: The reason is I am asking you. Me: That is not a reason, that is just you asking me to go. Why have you decided you want me to go? Mr Suit: The reason you have to go is I am asking you to go.

All of a sudden, the Head Goon, a particularly aggressive bald-headed fellow, decides it's time to join the conversation. Head Goon: Now listen you've been given a perfectly good reason, now go. Me (to Head Goon): C'mon mate, that's not a reason and you know it. Head Goon: Look, we're a licensed premises so we can ask anyone to leave. Me: Are you saying I'm intoxicated? Head Goon (back-pedalling fast as I am clearly not intoxicated): He (indicating Mr Suit) has given you a perfectly good reason, now pull your head in and go. You know, we've had clowns like you up here before, you know. Clowns like me, I muse to myself? Clowns like me? If there is anyone here who should be wearing a clown suit, it is Mr Suit - he's the one who told me I wasn't Andrew Scott when only hours earlier they took photocopies of my ID. He is the one suddenly demanding I leave for no reason.

Head Goon: Look mate, if you don't pull your head in I'm going to void your chips. Ok, this is really getting too much. They are now threatening to actually steal $39,300 from me. Now, take a step back and imagine the scenario I find myself in - it is the wee hours of the morning, I am totally alone (I'm not sure where my friends are now), surrounded by half a dozen goons, who are being led by Mr Suit, a guy who apparently doesn't know how to read a passport, and Head Goon, who looks absolutely itching to knock my block off, and has the man power with him to do it. Thoughts of the unfortunate and sad case of the now deceased Mr Delamangas are in the back of my mind. Suddenly, one of the other goons, let's call him P-plate Goon, pipes up: P-plate Goon: You've been told, you've been given a reason, now cash in your chips and get out of here.

Oh, great - don't goons who are not the head goon know that they are meant to be seen and not heard? Even the Head Goon speaking is a 50/50 thing. Now I'm dealing with a young and aggressive P-plate Goon, the slightly less young but slightly more aggressive Head Goon and bumbling Mr Suit - and all of them have got faces the colour of beetroot and look like they want to kill me. And there is a ring of general goons around me who could easily do so.

Now, let's just take a step back here. This situation is really ridiculous. Everyone knows why I am being treated like this. Because I am an Advantage Player. Because I have an edge. Because I know how to beat the game, and they know I know. If I was a civilian, I could get away with anything. I could regale you with stories of atrocious behaviour of high rolling civilians that gets accepted, merely because everyone knows that they are going to lose. If I was an AP but they didn't know I was, everything would be fine and life would carry on, and the sky would not fall in. If only the casinos knew how many APs they have in their midst, they would probably come to their senses. For 13 years I ran a school teaching BlackJack players to play with an edge, and in that time had many successful students. Many of them now happily ply their trade in the casinos of Australia and the rest of the world. And the sky does not fall in! The only reason that they know about me is historical - I started playing advantage BlackJack as a teenager, and at that time I had absolutely no knowledge of the techniques that exist to hide your skill from the casinos. Although I am very aware of those techniques now (and they continue to be taught at the BlackJack school I founded), they are useless to me because my reputation as a very skilled player spread around the Australian casino industry before I had an opportunity to adopt those techniques myself.

So the situation is this - I am playing totally legally, not cheating in any way, but playing with a little bit more intelligence than the average and managing to create an expected win of maybe a thousand bucks for the night. A thousand bucks is nothing to these casinos. They make hundreds of millions a year. I can still easily lose $50,000 on the night, I'm still putting my money at risk. What risk do I really pose to the casino? Of course, on any balanced assessment, I pose no risk at all. But these aggressive men of the casino are affronted, they feel assaulted, they feel like a robber is in their midst. In a casino, no-one is meant to win. They want every single person in there to lose. They can't stand the thought that someone has an edge over them, no matter how tiny that edge happens to be. They can't stand the fact that there is someone in there that knows more about the game than they do. They act like it is some kind of affront on their manhood. And so we have this farcical situation.

Ok, back to the Head Goon. He now tells me that not only is my Club Conrad card revoked forever, I am barred from the entire property for 24 hours. I tell him that if I am barred from the casino for 24 hours, we have a little problem, because the casino has provided me with a room, and I had intended sleeping in it that night. The Head Goon thinks I have made this up as a ploy, and gives me a sarcastic "yeah, right, let's see your room key then". Don't you think these guys would have done their research before confronting me like this? It hardly takes a moment to check whether I am staying in the hotel, which is highly likely for a person betting that big, that late at night. So I produce my room key, only to be met with Mr Goon's reply, "that key could be from a week ago, we're going to escort you to your room".

Now this is really uncomfortable. In the gaming areas of the casino, there are cameras everywhere. True, they are operated by the casino's own surveillance people, but they are there nevertheless. In the case of Mr Delamangas, the casino's cameras were their own undoing. Mr Delamangas's parents and fiancé eventually got to see the footage of Star City's goons first assaulting and then killing Mr Delamangas. Outrageously, no-one has ever been charged over Mr Delamangas's death. It was camera footage that at the end of the day led to Star City admitting liability in the case. In my mind, it is those cameras that are holding Head Goon back from punching me in the head right now. But in the corridors of the hotel I doubt there are many, if any, cameras. The hotel part of Jupiters is pretty old and tired - it was built before the time of omnipresent cameras. I don't want to be in a camera-less corridor alone with this gang of irrational and aggressive goons.

So, when these goons threaten to follow me to my room, I immediately make a decision. I take the uncomfortable but nevertheless camera-covered ride in the elevator from Club Conrad to the Casino lobby (accompanied by the goon squad), go straight out the main front door in the lobby, where I will be covered by cameras almost all the way, and jump into a cab. I even take the precaution of taking the cab not to my intended destination, but to Cavill Avenue, a nice generic, anonymous destination where all the open-late nightclubs are. I wait a while and catch another cab, in the middle of the night, to a friend's house (luckily I have one of those very good type of friends that will let me turn up at his place and disrupt his family in the middle of the night, although I'll have to repay them for the inconvenience by taking them all out to a slap-up dinner the next night).

I am not too proud to admit I was a little shaken by Jupiter's totally irrational and bizarre behaviour. I catch a flight back home late the next night. Two weeks pass, and my credit card bill arrives. I am shocked to discover that they have had the audacity to charge me for the room I never stayed in, even though they barred me from the premises. Time to call Leanne.

I speak to Leanne and explain to her that I was barred and I don't believe I should pay for a room that I couldn't use. She goes on to say "well, that depends why you were barred. Why were you barred?" Ah, good question!! I explain to her that I would love to know that reason, and perhaps she could make some enquiries for me.

Leanne does exactly that and calls me back a few hours later. "Mr Scott, we are going to refund your room, but no-one will give me a reason as to why you were barred." Welcome to my world, I think to myself. But Leanne goes on to suggest I call the General Manager of Gaming at Jupiters, a Ms Jackie Hutchinson. Ooooh, I think to myself, we're getting to the more senior people now!

So I call Ms Hutchinson's office, only to be informed that Ms Hutchinson is on the phone to their Managing Director. I chuckle to myself, suspecting they are discussing what stance Jupiters will take if this story gets out. I leave a message for Ms Hutchinson to return my call.

Jackie Hutchinson did return my call, I give her credit for at least that. And from our discussion I gleaned that she is an intelligent person (more than I can say for Mr Suit and the Goon show). She made a good attempt at justifying the unjustifiable. She said to me that the card was issued to me in error (yeah, the error was you didn't realise I had an edge over you guys), and that they have multiple criteria for issuing such cards. I said to her, in the politest possible way, that both she and I know that if anyone else came along and deposited $50,000 at the cage that they would instantly be issued with a Club Conrad card (as I was) and would get the VIP treatment. She didn't dispute that. I repeatedly asked her what was the reason I was barred, what criteria did I not meet? Although she treated me much more civilly than I was treated on the night in question, the substance of her answer was the same: "we are not giving you a reason".

At the beginning of this long story I posed a question about whether, in the 14 years since my last visit, Jupiters had grown up, whether they realised that one or two APs winning a tiny miniscule crumb of what the civilians lose wasn't the end of the world. Sadly, I have to report they are as immature as ever.

Postscript July 7th 2007
Jupiters finally credited my room cost back to my credit card, 44 days after it was first charged. I called them twice and emailed them twice before they finally did it. It was like pulling teeth. I intended to email this story to Jackie Hutchinson for comment, but was advised by Jupiters on July 5th 2007 that "Jackie Hutchinson has since left the company".

 

 

© 2007 Andrew W Scott
andrew@andrewscott.com

 


 

 

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