How casinos use technology to thwart the cheats
In 1980, Tommy Glenn Carmichael developed a metallic device that would trigger the jackpot mechanism on slot machines. This proved to be a lucrative pursuit for Carmichael, until casinos finally cottoned-on to the scam and updated their slot machine technology.
Not to be deterred, Carmichael further updated his methods and returned to cheat more money from the slots. Eventually he was arrested, and while he was behind bars, casinos again improved the security on their slot machines. When Carmichael was released from prison in 1987, jackpot triggers were electronic rather than mechanical.
That modification looked impregnable to Carmichael at first, but he soon found a way to overcome his new challenge. He designed a device called ‘the wand’ that triggered jackpots by shining light into the slot machine.
Slot machines are often targeted as a cash cow by casino cheats
Instead of heading straight out to the slot machines himself, Carmichael began to sell his new device to other casino cheats, before being apprehended one final time.
This story of cat and mouse highlights both the lengths that cheats will go to for a quick buck and the endless fight between casino fraudsters and the casinos themselves. However, casinos are innovating their way to victory in this battle, as we’ll discuss in this article about how they’re using technology to prevent and catch casino criminals.
Hi-tech surveillance systems
Most of the 602 criminal arrests in Nevadalast year were aided by hi-tech casino surveillance. License plate recognition cameras help casino security to identify those with a history of scamming, before they even enter the building.
Inside the premises, Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness (NORA) surveillance cameras use facial recognition technology – similar to that found in many banking apps to ensure safe account access – to scan the gaming floor looking for suspicious characters who might be working together.
As the tale of Tommy Glenn Carmichael shows, casino cheats are a persistent breed. Apprehension at one establishment does not put them off from trying the same scam at another. To combat this, most casinos share information with each other regarding suspected and known con artists.
Once a suspicious character has been identified, security will either forcefully ask them to leave, or monitor them in the hopes of finding accomplices. Busting a team of cheats, rather than a solitary individual, can be enormously beneficial to casino owners – helping them to stamp out a whole criminal enterprise in one fell swoop.
Robert De Niro didn’t need hi-tech surveillance in 1995 film ‘Casino’
Radio-frequency identification technology (RFID) uses electromagnetic fields to detect, identify and track tags attached to objects. It’s frequently used in retail stores – the tags attached to high value items that cause the buzzer to go off if you leave the store without paying.
Most casinos in Vegas and Macau have RFID transmitters installed into their chips to halt counterfeiters. The production of counterfeit chips has caused casinos a myriad of problems in the past, but not anymore.
Every chip that is cashed in must be passed over a RFID reader. If it fails to pass the test, the individual attempting to cash in the chips can be arrested on the spot. RFID technology also comes in handy during robberies, as Anthony Carleo found to his detriment in 2010.
Carleo made off with $1.5 million worth of casino chips after a heist, but unfortunately for him, staff had managed to deactivate the RFID tracking on the chips. This rendered them useless, as casinos would not accept them. A desperate Carleo was eventually apprehended when he was caught trying to sell the stolen chips to an undercover police officer.
Phil Ivey was left $9.6 million light after being caught edge sorting at The Borgata
Edge sorting is a very common and easy way of gaining an unfair advantage at a casino. Basically players keep an eye on the cards being dealt and look for little defects that can be used to identify the cards.
In poker, this is especially prominent, as the number of players handling the cards increases the chances of card defects. It may seem innocuous to an outsider, but casinos take a very dim view of it.
The simplest way of avoiding edge sorting is by regularly replacing the cards. All major casinos now have an endless supply of cards that the dealers are constantly replacing to combat edge sorting.
If you think that edge sorting is a pretty harmless method of cheating, then spare a thought for The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. A couple of years ago professional poker player Phil Ivey teamed up with a Chinese dealer to identify cards with defects in order to gain an advantage.
Fortunately for the casino, they uncovered Ivey’s scam and were able to file a lawsuit against him for $10.2 million.
It’s not just land-based casinos that are under threat from gambling cheats; online casinos are often targeted by the fraudsters, with some viewing online casinos as easy targets.
In the early days of online casinos, one of the most common methods of the casino swindlers was creating multiple accounts. With a range of aliases and email addresses it was possible to register with online providers multiple times – taking advantage of new customer offers.
By doing that, players were able to withdraw money from free winnings, without ever actually having to deposit any cash. Online casinos soon caught on to this and began to introduce rigorous online verification checks. At some of the more competent online operators, players that are marked as suspicious will be required to provide official documentation, such as passports or birth certificates, to verify their identity and access their winnings.
Multiple account creators are not the only threat to gaming sites though. Many cheats and fraudsters choose to target other players in order steal from online casinos. In 2011, a British computer hacker stole over £7.4 million from an online gaming company, after assuming the identity of two company employees, who were administrators of the website.
He transferred the chips he obtained to his own account and laundered them via Facebook to other online gamers, before behind caught after police identified his social profile while hacking into the casino system.
How to stay safe at an online gaming site
Below are a list of tips that you can use to maintain your security when gambling online:
Use a reputable provider.If you Google ‘online bingo’ you will be greeted by a huge number of results. Unfortunately, not all of those results can be reliable, so you need to do your research and choose a trustworthy provider. Luckily, there are clear signs of a trusted bingo site– a key one being security and protection. Leading bingo sites will employ anti-fraud software and they should have a section on their site, full of details on the measures they take to keep your money safe.
Choose a strong password.It’s basic cyber security common sense to carefully consider your password for an account that contains sensitive information. Easy-to-guess passwords are easy for fraudsters to crack and mean that your account can be breached by scammers looking to make a quick buck.
Be wary of email fraud.Phishing attacks are commonplace and are an easy way for scammers to try and trick you into giving out sensitive information or installing malware on your computer. Frequently, this occurs when hackers send an email that, at first glance, appears to be from a genuine source and prompts you to either click on bad links, or requests personal data from you. It’s important to look closer at these emails and ensure that they are genuine. A tip is to look out for misspellings, unusual casino offers or requests for sensitive information that the casino would not normally ask for.
Cheating casinos may seem like a victimless crime to many, especially when you consider the industry’sannual revenue of $70 billion. Casino cheats don’t just damage the casino profits, but they damage the experience of regular punters.
They are always developing their methods of fraud and it’s important to take the utmost care with your own security, especially when playing online. If you don’t take the requisite care with your sensitive data, you could end up on the wrong end of a harmful scam.