Gambler accused of cheating over $125 win

Petronius Cortez.

An Auckland man who says he won $125 on card tables at SkyCity is now before the courts accused of cheating.

Petronius Linsao Cortez, 52, appeared in the Auckland District Court today facing nine rare charges of breaching the Gambling Act arising from a night at the casino on Sunday.

Charging documents allege he knowingly contravened the rules of baccarat with intent to gain a financial advantage by placing bets after the outcome was determined.

If convicted, Cortez, who lives in Glenfield, faces a maximum penalty of one year's jail or a $20,000 fine.

He entered no pleas today and away from court told APNZ he would be seeking legal advice about his position.

Cortez said he didn't realise he was doing anything wrong as nobody told him while playing.

On Sunday night he laid down $125 and got back $250, a profit of $125, he said.

"I didn't know if it was late I'm very fast," he said of laying bets at the table.

Department of Internal Affairs games rules state any player undertaking casino table games agrees to undertake relevant rules through his or her participation.

The rules for baccarat say immediately before a round starts and all bets are on the table, the dealer will call "no more bets" and then begin dealing cards. Nobody can bet after that call.

Cortez claimed that at times on Sunday the dealer didn't make that call.

He was informed about the alleged wrongdoing later on Sunday night and was trespassed from SkyCity for two years.

"It's okay I stop gambling."

He said he wasn't a high roller or problem gambler but he had gone to SkyCity's casino for 10 years.

A SkyCity spokeswoman said she was unable to discuss the specific case, or disclose information about the casino's surveillance and security systems "that might compromise its efficacy".

"But our stance is always clear we have zero tolerance for cheating and theft. We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously and work with the authorities to prosecute and trespass these individuals, so customers can continue to be assured of the integrity of all of our games."

In 2012, a VIP group's winnings of $4.5 million were withheld while SkyCity investigated suspicions of cheating, but no evidence was found. The group was subsequently arrested in Asia for gambling fraud.

Two years earlier a man playing baccarat was found with a mechanical device strapped to his forearm and a SkyCity playing card in his possession. The device was used to remove a card from play and substitute it with another.

An Internal Affairs spokesman said since September 2011, there have been three criminal convictions for wrongdoing at casinos.

"Casinos are responsible for the conduct of gambling on their premises and SkyCity advises us of any untoward incidents on the gambling floor," he said.

A team of casino gambling inspectors ensured gambling in casinos was "fair, honest, lawful and remains free of criminal influence of exploitation".

Part of their brief was to deal with concerns and complaints about the way gambling is conducted at casinos.

What is baccarat?

A card game in which the aim is to bet on the hand closest to 9, which is the highest possible hand.

Cards are allocated points those from 2 to 9 are worth their face; aces are worth 1; 10, jack, queen and king are worth zero.

In a hand, the right digit when the two cards are dealt together is what counts.

For example, a 6 and 7 (total 13) is worth 3, a 2 and a king is worth 2, a 9 and a 9 (total 18) is worth 8.

- Jimmy Ellingham, APNZ

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