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Blackjack Player Wins US$15 Million

An unassuming businessman from Pennsylvania became one of the biggest winners at blackjack in the history of Atlantic City. The events surrounding his total winnings of nearly US$15 million from three New Jersey casinos have set records, created urban legends, and may have cost at least one casino employee their job.   

Don Johnson (no relation to the star of “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges”), a 49-year-old computer software CEO from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, started playing blackjack in 1996 for only US$25 a hand. Now he bets up to US$100,000 per hand at the Borgata, the Tropicana and the Caesars Atlantic City casinos.

According to an interview with a local newspaper, Johnson claims that he won US$4 million at Caesars, US$5 million at Borgata and just under US$6 million at Tropicana, for a total of slightly less than US$15 million in six months. His big win at Tropicana came in only twelve hours on an April night, as he bet US$100,000 on every hand.

The Tropicana win led to the casino declaring in its monthly income statements that lost money on blackjack in April.  Records from the New Jersey Gaming Commission showed that it was only the seventh time since Atlantic City instituted legal gambling in 1978 that a casino lost money on blackjack.

On 6 May, Tropicana announced that the company had fired CEO Mark Giannantonio, who had instituted the policy of allowing large bets. Industry observers have speculated that Johnson’s big wins led to Giannantonio’s dismissal, but Giannantonio denies that the record-setting loss was an issue.

“We were very unlucky,” Giannantonio said.

23-May-2011, 03:49

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