Where there’s money, you’ll surely find someone trying to game the system. Criminal and rogue elements are always drawn to big money environments, where they feel there is low hanging fruit for some ill-gotten gains. Sadly, casinos have been no stranger to chancers, fraudsters and crooks, and roulette in particular has seen some novel attempts to game the system.
In the majority of these cases, no matter how cunning, plans are foiled and rumbled. But given the ingenuity of some of the more high profile examples of roulette cheats at work, even the tightest of casino security couldn’t be sure that one or more haven’t slipped through the net.
Roulette is arguably a harder game to cheat than many other casino classic. But that hasn’t stopped various would-be scammers from trying their luck over the years. Here are a few of the most prominent cases of roulette casino cheats trying to pull a fast one.
This audacious scam saw the casino fleeced of around $1 million before it was identified. A would-be cheat had a brother who worked the roulette tables of the Casino Deauville in France. With the help of his wife’s brother, the trio set about creating one of the most elaborate roulette scams every to have been tried in a land-based casino. These events took place in the 70s, which makes them all the more impressive when you consider them in the context of the limited technological capabilities of the time.
The dealer switched the roulette ball for a new ball which contained a radio transmitter. A corresponding transmitter was wired into a fake packet of cigarettes, which was made to act as a trigger for the radio ball. When the ball was spun, the scammer triggered the radio signal that brought the ball to rest within a particular area of the wheel, with up to 90% accuracy on its results.
After racking up some 5 million Francs, the team were rumbled when the casino’s manager took a shine to the sister-in-law. Aware they were being cheated, and his advanced spurned by the sister-in-law, he started to investigate her presence at the casino a little further. As investigations unfolded, it became apparent that she had been involved in scamming the casino, and the group were referred on to the authorities.
The golden rule for all croupiers is to keep your eye on the action at all times. That seemed to go awry in this scam from Ohio, which investigators think could have involved as many as 70 different scammers working together in a group. The scam worked like this – a scammer approaches a busy roulette game to get involved in the action, playing with low level bets to avoid arousing suspicion and, of course, to keep costs to a minimum. While the croupier is distracted by another scammer, scammer #1 makes a grab for some of the chips on the table. These are then passed on to others within the group out of sight of casino surveillance, usually in the toilets. Once these free chips changed hands, they were laundered to buy more chips, which were then cashed out at a higher value.
There’s no roulette element to this scam, other than the roulette table as the backdrop to these crimes. But it was particularly successful, and the casinos are still discovering the depth of this scam. It is thought that the scam was worth up to $2000 per hit, and had been run throughout Ohio, and in fact across 18 other US states. Total losses remain anyone’s guess.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from this simple grab-and-switch were a trio of European gamblers, who took to the Ritz in London to win their fortune. £1.3 million later, the casino was starting to get suspicious. The team had developed an app for their phone that allowed them to measure the likely resting location of the ball. Through using laser measuring capabilities and sophisticated calculations of orbital decay, they were able to predict with much greater certainty where the ball would eventually land. They used this to good effect, before being rumbled by management.
Miraculously, they were eventually released without charge. While clearly a dubious practice, it was not in fact deemed illegal in court. Their process, known as ‘sector targeting’ was not in fact a scam, or in any way illegitimate, not matter what the casinos thought. Needless to say, they haven’t been welcomed back since.
Roulette scams and cheats have come in all shapes and sizes over the years, from the primitive to the highly sophisticated. While most have been caught and charged, and casinos have learned lessons to prevent similar scams in future, they continue to develop new methods for cheating casinos out of money. And with authorities, not to mention the casinos themselves, absolutely determined to prevent these practices, the cat and mouse game between criminals and investigators looks set to continue.