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Governor backs card counter banned by casino

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Gov. Mitch Daniels is hoping that an admitted card counter who's been banned from an Ohio River casino can soon be back at the blackjack tables.

Daniels used the story of Thomas Donovan's lawsuit, which has reached the state Supreme Court, in telling Franklin College graduates over the weekend about using skill to push the odds in one's favor.

"Donovan's sin in the casino's eyes is not that he is inordinately lucky, it's that he's inordinately smart," Daniels said. "He has taught himself to count the cards as they are played, then constantly and quickly to calculate the odds on his winning the next hand. In a game where luck still plays a large part, Donovan has through hard work learned to improve his chances."

Grand Victoria Casino and Resort at Rising Sun banned Donovan in 2006. The retired computer programmer from Indianapolis, who said he'd won about $65,000 playing blackjack since 1999, then sued.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case last month, with the casino arguing it has the right to choose not to do business with anyone.

State regulations don't prohibit card counting, and since Donovan filed his lawsuit, several casinos have asked the Indiana Gaming Commission to allow them to exclude players suspected of counting cards.

Daniels said Monday that he won't ask the commission to write a rule permitting card counting.

"If the commission on its own decides to have a look at it, I wouldn't discourage them from doing that," he said.

Gaming commission Executive Director Ernest Yelton said Daniels hasn't interfered with the commission's deliberations on the issue.

"We want to see what the Supreme Court has to say," Yelton said. "Regardless of which way the decision comes out, the commission will be dealing with this."

Daniels told the graduates Saturday that the card-counting case showed the difference between luck and good decisions.

"We can't take all the luck out of the game of life, but, through wise choices, we can shift the odds in our direction," he told the graduates. "From now on, you're the player. Count the cards, and the luck will take care of itself."

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