MGM Resorts will no longer allow players at poker tables to keep cash in play, meaning that all gamblers will have to convert cash to chips before it can be used in a game.
The change, which Online Poker Report says was confirmed by MGM, will affect many casinos in Las Vegas, including the Bellagio, Aria, and MGM Grand, as well as MGM properties in Mississippi and Detroit.
While the change itself was confirmed to be taking place beginning on April 1, no particular motivation was provided by MGM for the sudden shift in policy.
However, most are speculating that the decision has to do with compliance issues, perhaps dealing with anti-money laundering statutes or IRS reporting (or some combination of both).
The change will also take away one potential angle shoot at the poker tables, as it will make it easier for players to confirm their opponents’ stack sizes without wondering if cash is hidden on the tables, though this is almost certainly not the reason behind the change.
Prior to the change, $100 bills were allowed in play at MGM poker tables in Las Vegas. Elsewhere in the United States, rules vary on whether or not cash can be played directly at tables, though most major Las Vegas casinos do allow the practice in their cash poker games.
FinCEN Taking a Closer Look at Casino Money Laundering Policies
But the number of casinos allowing players to play with cash may dwindle in the near future. Over the past year, the United States Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Unit (FinCEN) has been making noise about how casinos should be actively taking steps to reduce money laundering, rather than just reacting to problems they discover after the fact.
FinCEN also recently opened a new office in Las Vegas, suggesting that they could be planning to keep a closer eye on casinos. This may also be way that many other Las Vegas poker rooms are likely to implement this rule in the near future.
Another possible motivation could be a recent IRS proposal that would lower the threshold on casino reporting for different casino games, requiring stoppages for slots, keno and other games any time a player wins over $600. While that potential change does not include poker, it could signify an environment in which IRS compliance is becoming more important to casinos, and requiring all money in play to be tracked in chips could help MGM better report large cash outs.
Players Divided on Whether Change Will Help Combat Cheaters
While the new rules would take away options from players at the poker tables, reaction to the change has been mixed. On Two Plus Two, a thread on the issue has elicited reactions from long-time posters that range from “way overdue” to “ridiculous,” and everywhere in between.
“[It’s 100 times] easier to angleshoot hiding big chips than $100 bills, and the $100 bills are much easier [to see] from the other end of the table,” wrote sevencard2003. “This is wonderful news for angleshooters and cheaters.”
On the other side of the issue, some players shared stories of issues they’ve had with cash being allowed in poker games. One player shared a story of a $2/$5 game in which he stacked a player who supposedly had $1,000 in cash behind.
“They were folded over in a rubber band with a 100 back showing,” wrote dabox007. “When I won the hand, inside were seven 100s and two 1s. Guy was long gone when I figured it out.”
I think this is GREAT news! I’m not so much concerned with how each table plays the “cash on table” as a ruling. My problem is the it is often done simply to try and gain an edge to win more or lose less than everybody else at the table by staying ambiguous with “what’s your stack”. It may not matter too much for nose bleed stakes but for the $1-$2 $2-$5 players it makes a big difference especially when considering the quality of the dealer being so high and low. Whatever MGM”s reason it was done for ‘fairness’ I don’t see where an argument can even stir after that.