Dateline: Las Vegas… Well, where else would you expect a story like this to surface first?

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has circulated a memo to casino operators across the state about a new wrinkle on an old method players can use to increase their chances of winning — a method which is, technically, legal.

Apparently, thousands of gamblers have started downloading a new card-counting application for the iPhone that, casino experts say, could shift the traditional house advantage in card games to the players.

Card counting is not illegal in Nevada. But only a few exceptionally gifted and/or highly trained individuals are capable of doing it without electronic or mechanical aids. And the use of mechanical aids to beat the odds is illegal in the state.

Cell phones are already banned at Nevada race tracks and sports betting parlours. But, for now at least, casino owners are free to establish their own rules concerning the use of cell phones.

The card counting program, though not named in news reports, is apparently available from Apple’s iPhone Apps Store.

This new threat to casino operators’ fortunes comes at a time when casino attendance and spending — as at virtually all resorts and entertainment facilities in the western world — are tanking. One Las Vegas economic analyst, Robert Lafleur of Susquehanna Financial Group, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently that, “Since 1990, we have seen a tenfold increase in capital deployed on the Strip and only a fivefold increase in profits. We think things are even worse than many perceive.”

Lafleur noted that $90 billion in Nevada casino equity has ‘evaporated’ in the past year. “The [Las Vegas] Strip is the new skid row.”

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