Counting cards in itself is not illegal in most jurisdictions in the US and around the world. However, if you use a counting device or machine, then counting cards become unlawful. This is often the case in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno, and other casino hubs in the United States.
If you are found guilty of counting cards (using external assistance), the casino can take some actions that include:
- Issue a warning for a first-time offense: You can still be kicked out of the casino.
- Removal from the casino establishment: The casino will likely take your photograph and enter it into a shared database. You may also get banned and blacklisted from ever entering the casino.
- Arrest, detain and question you: You will be taken to a private room for further questioning and investigation.
- Confiscation of winnings: Every dollar you won at the casino will be taken away. It doesn’t matter if you cheated fully or partially. That means even fair winnings will be confiscated.
- Jail time: You can get up to six years of prison time for a card-counting criminal offense.
- Fined: Expect to see a fine of up to $10,000 for card counting conviction.
Casinos don’t like card counters because they gain an advantage of between 0.5 and 1.5 percent over them. So, while counting cards is technically legal, casinos do everything to stop it in their establishments.
For instance, in Nevada, the state gambling laws permit casinos to bar entry to known card counters. They may have been caught counting cards in the same casino or any other casino within the state of Nevada.
That’s the only thing they can do. They cannot call the police to arrest you for counting cards. Moreover, they cannot take you to court and convict you of any crime for the act of counting cards.
The only time they can pursue a criminal charge is when card counting turns into illegal activity. This happens if you use card counting instruments. It’s also illegal if you manipulate the payment method of the blackjack game.
In Atlantic City, things are a bit different. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of card counters. So, if you are found counting cards at an Atlantic City, you won’t be thrown out by the management.
Is it illegal to count cards?
Short answer: no, it is not illegal to count cards. You are not breaking any law as long as you memorize cards and do not use card counting machines.
That has not stopped casinos from discouraging card-counting. If you are found counting cards, you will be asked to stop playing blackjack and leave the table. More commonly, you will be kicked out and prohibited from entering the casino for a while.
Why is counting cards banned?
Counting cards is banned because it gives the player an advantage over the casino. The player edge for basic counting skills can be around 0.5%. If you are a skilled card counter, you can enjoy an advantage of up to 1.5% or more.
Casinos ban card counting at their establishments to protect their interests.
They use several tactics that include kicking out known card counters and using extra decks of cards. Some casinos also employ shuffle machines that regularly mix the cards and ruin any chances of counting them.
Why do casinos hate card counters?
Casinos obviously hate card counters because they win a lot of money and eat into their gambling profits. Note that card counters may be banned by some casinos despite the fact that card-counting in and of itself is not illegal. Remember, casinos reserve the right to kick anyone out of their gaming floors at their discretion.
The fact that casinos frown upon card counters is not the only downside to card counting. There are many other reasons why card counting may not be worth the hype:
Card counting reduces your blackjack gaming experience
Although not many card counters are willing to admit it, card-counting is pretty boring and not as fun as popular media portrays it. If your primary purpose of visiting a casino is to get some entertainment, then you should skip card counting. The whole process is not only full of tension and apprehension but keeping count can take a toll on your mind.
Spending many hours sitting at the blackjack table may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If that sounds like you, consider playing at a leisure pace and watching your bankroll.
The edge is miniscule
If you are interested in card counting, you were probably inspired by the popular casino films like 21 or Hangover. These movies often depict card counting as something that can make you an overnight millionaire. However, the reality is that the edge you will gain from counting cards is paper thin.
The technique, which consumes a lot of time and mental energy, gives the player a very small advantage over the house. You may be lucky to win a few thousand dollars on a good night, but the rest of time is trying to keep things afloat.
Card counting is difficult to learn, master, and successfully apply
There is a great deal of learning that goes into mastering card counting. Only 11% of people who go down this road make it to become professional card counters. You will invest a lot of your time and effort sharpening your card counting systems then spend a lot of money to play blackjack.
Card counting requires a large bankroll
We have been made to believe that counting cards will guarantee large wads of money, but that only tells half the store. What most movies and people don’t tell you is the amount of money you need to start and implement a card-counting blackjack strategy from the ground up. Did you know that the famous MIT team kicked off their card counting adventure with a whopping $89,000?
What happens if you get caught card counting?
Card counting is not a crime at face-value. It is not an illegal activity, but casinos will go through many hoops to keep card counters at bay. If you are caught counting cards, you will be ejected and banned from ever playing at the casino in question. This is especially true in Las Vegas where high-end casinos do everything to protect their financial health.
Casino employees are usually vigilant and will fish any suspected card counter.
If you are caught counting cards after being banned, you may be arrested. The casino may prefer charges of cheating, fraud, or trespassing against you. In this case, card counting constitutes cheating because you entered the gaming hall after being banned. You won’t be allowed to play other casino games there.