The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Thursday that Encore Boston Harbor has not violated state regulations at its blackjack tables or slot machines in response to a class-action lawsuit that accused the Everett casino of shortchanging gamblers.
The lawsuit alleged that the casino’s 6-to-5 blackjack games sidestepped state rules “to maximize the casino’s advantage far in excess of that which is permitted.”
The commission’s investigative arm said it had reviewed the allegations and determined no wrongdoing.
“The IEB’s gaming agents have reviewed the claims and have preliminarily found Encore to be in compliance with the commission’s rules and regulations for paying out blackjack wins,” Bruce Band, the bureau’s assistant director, said at a commission meeting Thursday.
A 6-to-5 blackjack game pays out at 6-to-5 odds, rather than the standard 3-to-2, when a player hits blackjack. Under a 3-to-2 payout, someone who placed a wager of $50 and is dealt a blackjack would be paid $75, while under a 6-to-5 payout, the gambler would be paid $60.
Massachusetts regulators allow the lower 6-to-5 payout at casinos, but the lawsuit alleged that the casino was doing so without abiding by conditions that would improve the players’ odds, such as using fewer decks in the game.
But investigators said the casino was allowed to offer the lower payout in otherwise standard blackjack games.
“There exists a ‘6 to 5 blackjack variation,’ which is a particular type of blackjack game that is separate and distinct from standard blackjack,” Band wrote in a memo to the commission. Encore does not offer that variation, he said.
About 65 percent of blackjack tables at the casino offer 3-to-2 payouts, while the rest pay 6-to-5.
The lawsuit also claimed Encore is failing to fully refund slot credits to players who have cashed out. Ticket redemption machines on the casino floor pay out only whole dollar amounts “without paying change, and without instruction on how to obtain the balance,” the lawsuit alleged.
“The unredeemed change, therefore, is never returned to the player,” the lawsuit stated.
Gamblers must take their tickets to a cashier to get change, Band said. “It was probably not posted clearly enough by Encore,” he said.
The casino posted signs on the ticket redemption machines this week that read, “Machine only dispenses cash, ticket will print for change. Please take ticket to the cashier to redeem.”
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien asked if more signs could be posted so that “everybody knows what their options are,” and whether coin machines could be installed.
Encore president Robert DeSalvio said he would certainly consider those suggestions, and said installing coin machines is something the casino could do “relatively quickly.”
Unredeemed cash goes to the state after one year, not to Encore as the lawsuit stated, Band and DeSalvio said.
“Every single customer gets every dollar and every penny that they have coming due to them,” DeSalvio said.
DeSalvio said he was pleased that the commission had concluded that Encore is running the blackjack games “exactly the way the rules are intended.”
But Joshua Garick, the lawyer who filed the class-action lawsuit, said he and his client — a gambler from New York who recently visited the casino — are standing by their claims.
“We’re very disappointed that the investigation arm of the commission in under 24 hours conducted what they claim to be an investigation into our allegations,” Garick told reporters.
In a statement, Garick said that “while the commission has decided not to pursue enforcement action against the Encore, we have the right to do so in a court of law. We look forward to vigorously pursuing this lawsuit in an effort to restore fair and honest blackjack and slot play to the Encore casino.”
The $2.6 billion resort casino held its grand opening on June 23. It brought in $16.7 million in gaming revenue in its opening week, paying out $4.1 million in taxes, according to the state.