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Was trio gambling or cheating? $1.1 million at stake in lawsuit

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published August 11. 2014 4:00AM   Updated August 11. 2014 11:51PM
Three suing Foxwoods for winnings, but casino says they ran card scam

Three gamblers are suing Foxwoods Resort Casino in federal court, claiming the casino owes them more than $1.1 million they won playing mini-baccarat in December 2011, as well as $1.6 million they had deposited with the casino to cover any losses.

Foxwoods has refused to pay because it believes the three cheated, according to the suit filed July 31 in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

The plaintiffs - Chinese nationals Cheung Yin Sun of Las Vegas and Long Mei Fang and Zong Yang Li, both of Los Angeles - are seeking more than $3 million in "consequential" damages that include $100,000 per plaintiff for civil rights violations and $50,000 in legal fees they say they incurred in proceedings before the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Gaming Commission.

They're also seeking unspecified punitive damages, interest and fees.

According to the suit, the plaintiffs deposited the $1.6 million in "front money" before gambling at the casino on Dec. 23-24, 2011. They then won $1,148,000 worth of chips playing the card game mini-baccarat, openly employing a strategy known as "edge sorting," which gave them an advantage against the casino, or "house." The practice is legal in Connecticut and other U.S. gaming jurisdictions, the plaintiffs say in their suit.

"Basically, edge-sorting is possible because some brands of playing cards are not cut symmetrically across their backs and some players are gifted with eyesight keen enough to tell the difference," the suit says.

An "edge-sorter" can "sort" certain cards by having them turned opposite the rest of the cards in play. The sorter can recognize the backs of those cards when they are dealt after the next shuffle, "provided the sorted cards are not reversed in the shuffling process rendering the sorts unintelligible," according to the suit.

Foxwoods could easily have thwarted the edge-sorting by reversing the sorted cards, the plaintiffs claim.

Card dealers turned certain cards at the gamblers' request, the suit says.

"… If Foxwoods and Foxwoods management knew that plaintiffs were edge-sorting and let them practice their form of advantage play anyway - intending to keep their losses if they lost but not honor their winnings if they won - this would be intentional fraud," the plaintiffs allege.

In a February 2012 ruling, the director of the Mashantucket gaming commission's Inspection Division found that the gamblers had violated Foxwoods' gaming regulations, warning that they would be subject to arrest by Connecticut State Police if they returned. The commission later upheld the director's ruling.

The plaintiffs are represented in the federal suit by New London attorney Sebastian DeSantis. The named defendants, including Foxwoods, certain Foxwoods executives and others associated with the Mashantucket gaming commission, have yet to file a response to the suit.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

Twitter: @bjhallenbeck

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