Casino theft is still a big problem, even with today’s sophisticated surveillance equipment and techniques. The three biggest thorns poking at the casinos are theft by casino insiders, theft by customers who snatch-and-run, and cheaters at table games, especially the craps tables.
Surprisingly, the simplest rip-offs are the most difficult to spot and prevent. In 2015, the Gaming Control Board of Nevada accepted 574 settlement cases involving $51,800,000 and made more than 600 arrests. (Source). During a presentation to numerous casino managers at the Global Gaming Exposition, a high-ranking official from the Gaming Control Board indicated that casino theft and cheating happens at all levels of operations. He said you have to watch everyone, even management personnel. No one is exempt from being scrutinized because the thief can be anyone. The moment you let your guard down and think someone is incapable of theft or cheating is the moment you get stung. He said the number of arrests for theft by casino workers is between 250 and 500 per year, which is 25% of all annual Gaming Control Board arrests. Of the arrests involving casino workers, 27% are table crew personnel, 18% are money handlers in the casino cage, and 3% are security personnel. What’s worse is that 23% of those arrests are of management personnel.
Think about that for a moment. If 500 arrests of casino workers are made each year and 3% of them are of security personnel, then that means 15 people who are supposed to be protecting the casino from theft are the thieves themselves. And 115 of those annual arrests are of people who are supposed to be managing the casino and looking out for the casino’s best interests. Outsiders (non-casino personnel) are the bulk of the offenders.
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The hardest ones to catch are those who use the simplest methods. Card games are vulnerable to the simple art of “card marking” where the cheater surreptitiously marks certain cards with ink that’s invisible to the naked eye but shows up when looking through special glasses. Then there’s the simple snatch-and-run thief who is the hardest to catch of all casino thieves.
One particular snatch-and-runner is documented on surveillance video from multiple casinos as having stolen more than $200,000. Video surveillance personnel oftentimes see his crimes as they occur, but the offender is so quick that he’s out the door and lost in the crowd before anything can be done. All the casinos can do is log the offender in the so-called “Black Book,” which is a record of cheats and thieves with pictures to help casinos identify them before they can commit their crimes. The criminals know the book exists, but they’re willing to take the risk anyway because the reward is so great.
Although simpler is usually better when it comes to stealing from a casino, the Control Board official said that most criminals aren’t so obvious with their techniques. He indicated that the craps table is where thieves find it relatively easy to steal because craps is the most difficult of all games to monitor. Dealers deal directly with players and chips are moving everywhere, especially on a crowded table. The boxman can only look in one direction at a time, which provides plenty of opportunities for crooked dealers and players to steal. Switching dice occurs more often than you might think. A craps player skilled at palming dice can introduce a set of crooked dice, roll them, take the winnings, and then replace the genuine dice without anyone ever knowing. Another common way thieves steal is to slyly sneak chips off the table. This can be done by a dealer, a player, or a dealer-player team. Dealer cheats have been caught slipping chips into various parts of their uniforms, such as their ties and vests.
A common maneuver that a player cheat makes is sneaking a chip from the player next to them when that player shoots the dice. If the shooter doesn’t protect his chip stack with his non-throwing hand, the thief has a golden opportunity to steal. The shooter usually leans forward when rolling the dice, and everyone at the table, including the dealers, tend to watch the dice as they fly to the other end of the table. In that instant when the shooter is leaning forward and everyone is watching the craps dice, the thief also leans forward to help hide his hand as he quickly reaches to lift a chip from the end of the shooters chip stack.
That’s why you should get into the habit of always covering your chips with your non-throwing hand when you’re the shooter. When playing craps, the best way to deter a thief from making you his target is to put some $1 chips on the outer ends of your stack, and the larger denominations in the interior of your stack. It’s much more difficult to lift a chip from the middle of your stack than it is from the end of the stack.
A dealer-player team at the craps table is also a big threat to the casino. Their typical method is for the dealer to overpay a winning roll. If the dealer sees the boxman focused on an issue at the other end of the table, the dealer sneaks an extra chip when paying the player. Most of the time, overpayments are honest mistakes that the boxman usually catches. But you never know when an over-payment might be intentional between the player and dealer.
It’s hard to catch a craps dealer who’s skilled at cheating, but the inexperienced dealer who’s trying to cheat is oftentimes easy to spot. For example, if a dealer appears fidgety and constantly looking at the boxman or floor supervisor, it’s usually because of one of two things: the dealer is nervous about being seen as a weak dealer making honest mistakes (he’s fearful of losing his job), or he’s looking for an opportunity to cheat. As the saying goes, “The only reason a craps dealer should be looking at a supervisor is to see if they’re looking at him.” So, the next time you see a craps dealer seemingly more interested in watching the supervisors than he is in watching the table, you’ll know he’s likely either worried about being seen as a weak dealer or he’s looking for an opportunity to cheat the casino!
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