Business

Why Google Glass could one day be a nightmare for Las Vegas

When Caesar’s Palace announced earlier this month that it was banning Google Glass from its casino floor, few people were less surprised than Colin Jones.

A veteran card counter, Jones has been banned from dozens of casinos for using probability and his brain to play games like blackjack. And it was pretty obvious to him why casinos were freaking out about Glass: It could change everything.

“Casinos are paranoid about people finding any way to get an advantage over the house,” he said.

In case you haven’t been to a casino in a while, here’s the reality of how things work: They aren’t there to be your friend. Despite the rosy advertising, the nature of casinos means that when you win, the house loses. And the house doesn’t like to lose.

This is why casinos aren’t crazy about card counters, who use statistics to beat the house at its own game. For casinos, gambling is about chance — weighted in the house’s favor, naturally — and using anything beyond it is just duplicity.

“Casinos love to lump cheaters and card counters in the same sentence,” Jones said, who is not shy about expressing his distaste for the casino industry.

Jones often has to visit casinos in disguise to throw off dealers.

Above: Colin Jones often has to visit casinos in disguise to throw off dealers.

This is why it’s not particularly surprising that casinos are already taking such a stand against Glass, even though just about no one owns a Glass device yet. Devices like Glass could one day make it far, far easier to count cards, and Jones wants to make that reality possible by developing a card counting app for Glass.

Still, for all the hype about the device, Glass isn’t the first gadget casinos have banned over the years. The iPhone faced similar backlash from casinos after its introduction, and dedicated card counting devices like this hidden computer are even considered illegal in states like — go figure — Nevada. Also frowned upon are apps like Jones’ own BlackJack Trainer Pro, which teaches card counting techniques.

In short, the banning of Glass is nothing new. But what is new here is the just how much Glass will expand the card counter’s tool box — even outside of Las Vegas.

Imagine, for example, being able to see in first-person a player’s hand and advise them on the best possible move. This, of course, would be considered cheating if you did it in a casino, but it could be a very powerful training tool for people who want to remotely teach others how to count cards. (“Skype training is a logistical nightmare,” Jones said.)

More, consider an app that would let card counters know in real time which casinos had the best games going — or which ones had dealers who were best avoided. It’s like a crowdsourced Yelp for card counters.

“The way I see it is we want to use every technology at our disposal to help counters train and help the card counting community work together. We want to stay at the forefront of that,” Jones said.

All of this sounds really interesting, but it’s clear that it’s going to be a while before any of it actually exists. Jones confesses that he hasn’t used Glass yet — though he is talking to developers about creating an app.

Also, the real potential for card counters and wearable computing won’t be realized until we’re using something like Google Contacts, Jones says. Right now, Glass is just too conspicuous, and it’s going to be a long time until that’s not the case. Still, a card counter can dream, can’t he?

“Casinos have cameras on every player at every time. Imagine when players have the same advantage that casinos have,” Jones said.


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