Maryland casinos have evicted 3,600 players since casinos began operation in the state in 2010, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.
Almost 200 of those gamblers were booted for cheating, but the state agency which oversees Maryland casinos does not publicly disclose the reasoning for the other evictions.
State gaming officials confirm some of the other evictions include people who try to “manipulate” or “exploit” games, including those who count cards at blackjack.
The list of booted gamblers is produced by casinos and a central copy is maintained by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which oversees and regulates the state’s casinos.
The list is not released or shared with the public, despite calls to do so by professional gamers. Similar “banned players” lists are released in neighboring casino states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the I-Team found.
Joseph Stiers, a professional poker player from Montgomery County, said Maryland’s handling of evicted casino patrons lacks accountability and transparency. Stiers said he was booted from Horseshoe Casino in 2014 for card counting at a blackjack table.
“Casinos are exploiting (loopholes) to pick and choose who can play in Maryland,” Stiers said.
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The public release of banned players lists in neighboring states offers increased accountability for the officials who evicted the players, Stiers said.
Stiers challenged his eviction to state officials but said it was not overturned. Casinos share lists and names of booted players, he said. His eviction prevents him from playing at several other casinos nationwide, including at a large professional poker tournament, upon which he said he depends for earnings, he said.
Horseshoe Casino declined to comment on Stiers' case.
“Caesars Entertainment has hosted more than 10 million guests at Horseshoe Baltimore, and the overwhelming majority have a good time and game responsibly,“ a spokesman said.
Casinos are permitted to evict players, even those abiding by the letter of Maryland gaming laws, so long as the casinos do not engage in discrimination, a spokeswoman for the agency said.
“Casinos may identify potential threats or unsavory individuals and exclude them based on suspicious activity or intelligence gathered from other casinos, law enforcement agencies or other jurisdictions," the spokeswoman said. "One example would be behavior or collusion with other individuals or a group to manipulate or exploit a particular game.”
By keeping its list of evicted players confidential, Maryland prevents the public from seeing the types of cheating in which local players are engaging.
The I-Team’s review of player evictions in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania reveals two of the more frequent casino cheating attempts. The first is “past-posting,” in which players attempt to sneak additional chips on to their bets when their bets appear favored to win. The second is called “bet pinching,” in which players attempt the opposite, by sneaking chips away from a bet likely to lose.
Maryland gaming industry analyst James Karmel said local players continue to attempt to cheat, despite well-known and widely placed casino security and surveillance.
“Cheats still think they can scoot an extra chip when they have a good hand and think they’re going to win,” Karmel said.
Larger cheating operations involve collusion with casino employees or dealers, Karmel said.
“It’s pretty common knowledge: Whenever you’re in a casino, you’re on camera," he said. "People think that’s because they’re watching out for cheating players. They are. But they’re watching the employees just as much.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, and shot and edited by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper.