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US casino claims Poker pro Phil Ivey cheated at baccarat 15/04/2014
Richard Whitehouse
A New Jersey casino is suing a professional poker player it says won $9.6m (£5.7m) by cheating at baccarat.

The Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City says that in 2012 Phil Ivey relied on a tactic called edge sorting to help him guess the value of face-down cards.

It says he studied the cards' back sides for imperfections "to gain an unfair advantage".

In the lawsuit, Borgata says Ivey told the casino the conditions were due to his superstitions, but the terms enabled Ivey to manipulate the cards to his advantage. Here's how: The Gemaco cards used weren't perfectly symmetrical, so by having the dealer turn baccarat's most important cards upside down - which isn't noticeable with properly made symmetrical cards - Ivey gained an advantage over the house and exploited that advantage to win $9.6 million.

The nine-time World Series of Poker winner is considered one of the best players in the world.

No lawyer was listed for Mr Ivey in federal court records and the BBC was unable to reach him for comment.

Previous cheating allegation

In the suit filed in federal court in New Jersey on Tuesday, the casino said Mr Ivey created "a situation in which he could surreptitiously manipulate what he knew to be a defect in the playing cards in order to gain an unfair advantage over Borgata".

The Borgata alleges that Mr Ivey and an accomplice gave directions to the dealer to flip the cars in a specific manner, citing superstition. The casino accommodated Mr Ivey's request, it says.

Mr Ivey's true intent was to gain advantage over the house by tracking the cards' edges as they were dealt through the pack, the casino says.

The casino demands Mr Ivey and his co-defendant Chen Yin Sun return the winnings.

The Borgata has also listed card manufacturer Gemaco in the suit, saying the company failed to guarantee its cards were free of defects or distinguishable marks.

Mr Ivey had previously been accused of edge sorting by London casino Crockfords, which withheld more than $12m in winnings.

He later filed a lawsuit against Crockfords to release the funds. .

However, the shock news for high street bookies was offset with surprise good news for the bingo industry, which saw the duty it pays on its winnings halve from 20% to 10%.

The industry had long complained it had been penalised in the 2009 budget when its tax rate was unexpectedly increased from 15% to 22% - which later came down to 20%. Bingo industry insiders had been expecting a cut back to the old rate of 15%, which is also the level bookmakers are taxed on profits from sports bets. However, they were delighted with their unexpected win.

Ian Burke, chief executive of Rank Group, which operates 97 Mecca Bingo clubs across the UK, said: "Today's announcement is an important boost for Britain's bingo clubs, which provide a range of social and economic benefits for the communities they serve. By bringing bingo duty into line with other forms of gaming entertainment, the government has created a basis for renewed investment and innovation."

Rank's shares rose by 7.5% and in contrast to Ladbrokes' predictions, the company said it would now consider opening more venues. "Rank has identified a number of towns and cities in Britain where, in the light of today's announcement, it would like to develop new clubs," it said.

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