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The age old question: Is Blackjack Card Counting illegal?

Every blackjack dealing casino in the United States has, in some manner, promoted the belief that card counting is illegal. Casinos have the right to kick a player out for doing it, which would support that theory, but in reality, there is nothing illegal about mentally tracking the cards and using that information to increase one’s profit potential. So why do so many players think blackjack card counting must be against the law?

Let’s think about the logistics of the mater for a moment. Let’s say that you are able to keep a count of all high and low cards that visibly leave the shoe. Based on that information, you place a higher or lower wager when you know there are more or less face cards and 10’s remaining than low cards in the deck. On a high count, you double your wager, and low and behold, you are dealt a natural blackjack. The dealer pays you 3:2, but to your dismay, a member of casino security plops a hand on your shoulder and says, “Can you come with me, please?”

Now we’ve all seen the Hollywood films where blackjack card counters are politely escorted to a back room, only to have their winnings stripped from them, followed by a severe beating in some greasy back alley, then a stern request that they never step foot in the establishment again. While I’m sure that, in the past, such instances have taken place on occasion, perhaps more so in the days when organized crime syndicates openly controlled Las Vegas, it certainly isn’t something the average blackjack player would ever encounter. Realistically, while card counting is not illegal, theft and battery most certainly are. With millions of dollars coming in every month, casinos are not in the business of losing their license over a few large bills.

Getting back to the point, it’s conceivably impossible to criminalize the act of mentally counting cards in blackjack. It is merely a cerebral process that some have the ability to exploit, and others do not. To penalize such a mental capacity would be like saying it’s illegal to look at your opponent across the poker table because he might give a tell, or to review a stock’s history before purchasing shares on the NYSE. It just doesn’t make sense.

With that said, there are actually certain forms of blackjack card counting that are illegal in nature. Using one’s mental capacity to count the cards is fine, but if a player uses any type of device or physical implement to assist them in card counting, that would fall into the category of illegal. For example, in 2009, the Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a warning to casino goers that using the iPhone card counting application, ‘A Blackjack Card Counter’, was against the law. The state urged casinos to be on the lookout for the use of such illegal card counting devices.

Evidence to support the fact that card counting is not illegal in the US also comes from the recent escapades of Hollywood superstar, Ben Affleck. The 42 year old actor and director was banned from the blackjack tables of the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas after allegedly counting cards. He was not arrested or charged with any crime, but the casino does have the right to refuse service.

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