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US gambling capital bans iPhone card counter

Tribal casino spots 'stealth' cheat app

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You can now use your iPhone or iPod Touch to help you break the bank - and the law - at a casino's blackjack table.

And gaming officials in Nevada are none too happy about it.

Earlier this month, that US state's Gaming Control Board issued a warning (PDF) to casino operators of an application available from the iTunes App Store named, appropriately enough, A Blackjack Card Counter (App Store link).

Card counting is a method of keeping track of which cards have been played and which are still with the dealer. A player with card-counting skills can significantly improve their odds of beating the dealer and carrying home some serious cash.

Card counting itself isn't illegal - as long as you do it in your head. However, if you use a device to help in "projecting the outcome of the game...keeping track of the cards played...analyzing the probability of the occurrence of an event relating to the game...or analyzing the strategy for playing or betting to be used in the game," you're breaking Nevada law.

And we're not talking about a slap on the wrist. Device-assisted card counting is a felony earning you a prison sentence of 1 to 6 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

And that's just for a first offense.

According to Gaming Control Board member Randall E. Sayre, the Nevada Board was tipped off by the California Bureau of Gambling Control, which itself was alerted to the existence of A Blackjack Card Counter by "a Northern California Tribal Casino."

Sayre reminded casino operators of the illegality of the "use of this type of program or possession of a device with this type of program on it (with the intent to use it), in a licensed gaming establishment."

And it appears that A Blackjack Card Counter is designed specifically for use in "a licensed gaming establishment."

Not only does the app provide a choice of four popular card-counting methods, but it also offers a "Stealth Mode" feature that turns off the display of your iPhone or iPod Touch while still accepting furtive card-info finger-taps. If you're using an iPhone for your subterfuge, it will helpfully vibrate when your predetermined "true count" value is reached.

Although A Blackjack Card Counter isn't the only card-counter available from the App Store, it's the only one with a stealthy feature so obviously designed for, well, committing a felony.

Other iPhone/iPod card counters such as TMSOFT's Card Counter or Hideyuki Shibata's CardCounterBJ can hide behind disclaimers. TMSOFT's says: "Do not use a device or iPhone application to cheat the casinos. Let us teach you how to count legally, you'll have a lot of fun doing it, and you won't end up in jail!"

Apple - the company that gets its knickers in a knot over boobs - is apparently less moralistic about casino cheating. Although the Nevada Gaming Control Board's warning was issued on February 5, A Blackjack Card Counter is still available from the App Store. If you're interested in a copy, you might want to move fast: today it's being offered - "for ONE DAY ONLY" - at the bargain price of $1.99, down from $4.99.

Such a deal - a mere buck-ninety-nine for a year of free room and board in a state-run resort. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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