Update 4:19 pm: This story has been modified to include reaction from the creator of the card-counting iPhone app.
Since the July 2008 launch of the App Store, Apple has maintained a sort of moral code--a PG-13-type standard, if you will--surrounding the thousands of iPhone and iPod Touch applications available via the service.
That's why, for example, there are no iPhone porn apps, though it is certainly possible to access adult content optimized for the device.
Given that, one would think that Apple wouldn't have given the thumbs-up to an app that, if used in the most logical manner, could get someone arrested, or worse. But with an app called "A Blackjack Card Counter," that's not, in fact, the case.
We've all seen the movies where the hot-shot gambler slips up and finds himself hustled off to a back room where a genial but brutal casino manager calmly breaks a few fingers while issuing a stern warning never to come back. Films like The Cooler, 21, Rounders, Casino and many others have made this kind of scene, even if it's not always about card counting, a staple of our imagination.
Yet card counting--a complex practice that gives practitioners a way to determine the optimal times to bet in blackjack--prevails to this day. And it's not even illegal, though being caught at it is sure to lead to a hasty expulsion from a casino, at best, or even the kind of back-room visit discussed above. What is definitely illegal, however, is the employment of any kind of electronic device that aids players in counting cards.
And that's where "A Blackjack Card Counter," and perhaps a few other iPhone apps come into play.
Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, itself tipped off by the California Bureau of Gambling Control, issued an alert to "all non-restricted licensees and interested parties"--the state's casinos--warning of the emergence of iPhone card counting apps.
"This blackjack card-counting program can be utilized on either the Apple iPhone or the Apple iPod Touch...Once this program is installed on the phone through the iTunes Web site it can make counting cards easy," Nevada Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre wrote in the alert. "This program can be used in the 'stealth mode.' When the program is used in the 'stealth mode' the screen of the phone will remain shut off, and as long as the user knows where the keys are located, the program can be run effortlessly without detection."
And, as Sayre pointed out, "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 the law.
For its part, the makers of "A Blackjack Card Counter," an Australian outfit called Webtopia, couldn't be happier about the attention being paid to its app as a result of its potentially illegal nature.
"Since the Nevada Gaming Control Board warned casinos about 'A Blackjack Card Counter' there's been an unprecedented demand for this app," Webtopia wrote in the tool's official App Store description. "Now you can see what all the fuss (is) about at a very reasonable price." … Read more