There’s More Than One Way to Steal Money From a Casino

Dealer giving the player a peek at the top card of the deck

A blackjack dealer and two men were arraigned on gaming fraud charges for cheating, while a suspect is at large for jumping onto a craps table at El Cortez in Las Vegas and stealing $19,100 in chips. [Image:]

Colluding with the blackjack dealer

There’s the easy way to steal money from a casino and there’s the hard way. We’ll let you decide which is which. Let’s start in Buffalo, New York, whose residents are celebrating an NFL opening day win for their Bills, who kicked off the season Thursday night by demolishing the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. That same day, two people were arrested on gaming fraud charges in Buffalo City Court.

Emily Torres, the dealer, had been showing them her cards, giving them a massive advantage

Mark M. Watson, Jr. and Rahat Hossein had a fantastic night at the blackjack table at Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino on August 14 (bleeding into August 15), winning thousands of dollars. It turned out, however, that it wasn’t just good luck on their side – they had help inside. Emily Torres, the dealer, had been showing them her cards, giving them a massive advantage and making it nearly impossible for them to lose. Their transgressions were spotted on security footage and they were arrested within a day.

All three were charged with first-degree gaming fraud, a felony. Watson has already paid back the casino in full, a total of $5,287.50. Hossein repaid $2,210.

Torres and Watson will have their felony hearing on October 12. Hossein, who pleaded not guilty at his August 30 arraignment, has his hearing on October 6.

Supermarket sweep style

So what was that the easy way or the hard way? Read the next one before you decide. On the morning of September 6, just before 7am local time, a man jumped onto a craps table at the El Cortez casino in downtown Las Vegas, lunged for the casino’s bank in front of the boxperson, and took off with $19,100 in chips.

Thanks to security footage screen grabs acquired by Vital Vegas’ Scott Roeben, we can see that any description of what happened was no exaggeration. The guy literally laid out across the table on a diagonal, right thigh on one rail, hands scooping as many chips he could grab. Frankly, it was nice of him to not take players’ chips, though he might have messed up some bets.

What’s crazy to me is that the thief got away, just running out of there with armfuls of chips. Then again, perhaps security knew it wasn’t worth chasing him and risking their safety. That’s because…

Good luck cashing out

….there is likely no way the suspect is going to be able to convert those chips to cash, at least not many of them. The chips are not worth anything until they are actually exchanged for real money at the cashier and since the guy is on video, it is almost certain that the casino would recognize him. He probably knows that, too, so it is highly unlikely that he would risk capture by waltzing back into the El Cortez and trying to cash in the stolen chips.

When I told her about this incident, my wife asked me if the suspect could just have a friend exchange the chips. I suppose it is possible, but it would be difficult. Cashing out the entire amount at one would be a no-go – the El Cortez knows how much was stolen, so that would be just saying, “Hi, arrest me!”

Many casinos now have RFID tags in their chips so that they can be rendered useless if they are stolen. The casino would know which chips were taken and deactivate them so that they can’t be cashed out. El Cortez does not have RFID chips, which may be a reason why the suspect targeted that casino.

And if it was a large portion of the haul, a red flag would go up if it’s just some random schmoe coming in off the street. Same with repeated small exchanges – it would just be odd for someone to do that, especially without spending time gambling, so the casino would investigate.

The one possibility, maybe, would be having a friend exchange very small amounts of chips for cash over a long period of time, with the trips to the casino spaced out several months apart. Mayyyybe that would work, but casinos are ten steps ahead of all of us in terms of security that I doubt that is even an option.


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