February 17, 2009, 4:21 PM — Nevada gaming authorities have warned casinos to watch for blackjack players using an iPhone application to count cards.
In a memorandum that the state's gaming control board circulated to casinos starting Feb. 5, board member Randall Sayre sounded the alarm about "Blackjack Card Counter," an iPhone application that sells for US$1.99 on Apple Inc. 's App Store.
"Once this program is installed on the phone through the iTunes Web site, it can make counting cards easy."
Although card counting -- attempting to keep track of the number of face cards, aces and 10s in the multi-deck blackjack shoe -- is not illegal in Nevada, using a device that aids in counting is against the law.
Card counting is a strategy that tries to track the ratio of high-value cards to low-value cards. A high ratio supposedly benefits the player, while the reverse gives the advantage to the dealer.
According to Sayre, Nevada gaming authorities were tipped to the iPhone application by colleagues in California, who in turn had been told by a tribal casino in the northern part of the state that it had found customers using the program.
Among the application's features that Sayre called out is its "Stealth Mode," which shuts off the iPhone screen -- making the phone appear to be turned off. However, the user can still continue to track cards by pressing the screen at the spots where the keys would normally show.
"Just as a reminder, use of this type of program or possession of a device with this type of program on it (with the intent to use it), in a licensed gaming establishment, is a violation of NRS 465.075," said Sayre. Counting cards with a device is a felony under Nevada law, and is punishable by prison terms of between one and six years, or a fine of no more than US$10,000, for the first offense.
Blackjack Card Counter is not the only such software on the App Store. The rival "Card Counter," billed as a card counting practice program, sells for $2.99. Card Counter is more popular than Blackjack Card Counter; the former is currently No. 30 on the App Store's list of best-selling games.