Golden Nugget Atlantic City is being countersued by three of 14 gamblers who allegedly exploited some unshuffled cards to win $1.5 million during a game of mini-baccarat.

The three gamblers, all of Chinese descent, filed a Superior Court lawsuit Aug. 9 accusing Golden Nugget of racial discrimination. They want the court to order the casino to pay them their winnings from the disputed game.

“They clearly singled out the Asian population,” Benjamin Dash , a New Jersey attorney representing the gamblers in the litigation, said of Golden Nugget.

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Golden Nugget denied any racial discrimination, saying that it has built an Asian-themed casino area and Asian restaurant to attract Asian customers to the property.

“The Golden Nugget values all of its customers and would never discriminate against anyone, including the Asian community,” the casino said in a statement.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the chief regulatory agency for Atlantic City’s casinos, has confirmed that it is investigating the mini-baccarat dispute.

Golden Nugget went on to call the gamblers’ allegations “completely false.” The casino reiterated comments that it first made in July, when it filed its own Superior Court suit accusing 14 Asian gamblers of illegally taking advantage of some unshuffled cards to win big.

“The countersuit has no merit and is nothing more than a ploy by the gamblers and their lawyers to tarnish the Golden Nugget’s reputation in order to gain an economic advantage in the lawsuit. We will not let this happen,” the casino said.

The legal battle is over a mini-baccarat game played for about 21/2 hours on the night of April 30. According to the Golden Nugget, the game was illegal because the cards were not shuffled. The casino has blamed the vendor that supplied the cards for not preshuffling them before they were put into play.

In its suit, Golden Nugget wants the court to declare the game illegal and order the return of the gamblers’ “purported winnings.” Golden Nugget is also suing Gemaco Inc. , a Kansas City, Mo., company that allegedly failed to shuffle the cards before they were given to the casino.

Golden Nugget says the 14 gamblers won a total of $1,536,700. They cashed out $558,900 in chips immediately after the game had ended. About $977,800 in chips have yet to be redeemed, Golden Nugget’s suit says.

The gamblers want Golden Nugget to allow them to cash out the remaining chips. Golden Nugget is looking for the gamblers to return the money that was already paid out.

Dash said only three gamblers have countersued so far, but he noted that others have either spoken to him or other attorneys about the possibility of litigation.

The plaintiffs include Ping Lin , of Atlantic City, Sheng Xia , of Forest Hills, N.Y., and Hua Shi , of Brooklyn, N.Y. They are seeking damages against Golden Nugget as well as compensation for the gambling chips that the casino refuses to let them cash.

The suit says Golden Nugget treated all of the gamblers like “cheaters, swindlers and schemers.” As the game went on, the unshuffled cards repeatedly came out in the same pattern, allowing the gamblers to win 41 consecutive hands.

The next day, Golden Nugget officials restrained Shi in his hotel room while his belongings were searched without his permission, the suit says. Golden Nugget also allegedly held Shi in custody for more than eight hours, without any explanation, and denied him food, water and an interpreter.

Dash said the gamblers did not cheat or do anything else wrong. “They played the game by the rules, they won and they are entitled to be paid,” he said.

Golden Nugget contends the players began increasing their bets from as little as $10 to $5,000 when they “caught on to the pattern” of the unshuffled cards.

Golden Nugget’s dealers, supervisors and security staff closely watched the game, believing that a sophisticated swindle was under way. However, they didn’t stop the gambling because they couldn’t figure out how the players were allegedly cheating, Golden Nugget said in its suit. Later, it was discovered that the cards had not been shuffled.

Dash scoffed at Golden Nugget’s claim that the mini-baccarat game was somehow illegal. He said the Asian gamblers were guests of Golden Nugget and played a type of game that has been widely approved for Atlantic City casinos.

“There is zero basis in the law for their contention,” Dash said. “They have taken the position that because there was a mistake, the game was unlawful. There is nothing to make that game unlawful because they didn’t shuffle the cards.”

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the chief regulatory agency for Atlantic City’s casinos, has confirmed that it is investigating the mini-baccarat dispute.


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