Cheating persists despite casinos’ vigilance, surveillance

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Published: October 2,2000

Some schools use an honor code to combat cheating, but when it comes to casinos, the route is high-tech, with the help of surveillance cameras in combination with

videotapes.

Cheating is a serious offense in the industry, and can earn violators not only a walk to the exit, but also jail time, not to mention never being able to be a casino worker.

In fact, according to Ashley Skellie, public relations director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC), one can have a felony conviction if they wish to work in

the gaming industry, but it must have occurred some years ago. And since the Mississippi gaming industry looks at Federal Bureau of Investigation records, everything

in a person`s past comes up.

“Someone who is 60 years old looking for a job who committed a crime when they were 18 (may still not be able to) get a job,” Skellie said.

Most but not all of the time, cheating occurs with help from a casino worker, Skellie said.

The MGC has taken many steps to help casinos guard against this type of theft, which amounts to stealing from not only the particular casino involved, but from the

state of Mississippi.

Each year, casinos in Mississippi are taxed 12%. Eight percent of that 12% goes to the state while the other 4% goes to the local government, and every time there is

cheating, both the local and state governments are hurt. The main concern for MGC in regards to cheating is state regulation.

The Mississippi Gaming Commission, the regulatory body of the casino industry in Mississippi, took the toughest of Nevada`s and Atlantic City`s regulations and

merged them in order to create Mississippi`s regulations, which are considered to be the toughest in the country.

“The whole goal was to do whatever we could,” Skellie said. “We are a little tough, but it seems to be working. The casinos are very helpful and very happy. I have

many friends who work for casinos and they all say the same thing.”

And while cheating may not sound to some like a big loss in state and local tax revenue, think about this. A casino worker can pocket as much or more than $50,000

during a scam, and a gang can manipulate a hopper in order to win as much as $30,000 in one fell swoop. Many times, cheaters use sleight of hand tricks to get by

casino workers or casino workers are in cahoots with patrons.

But, Skellie said, the MGC has been doing a good job of keeping cheaters down.

In every square foot of area where cash changes hands in a casino, there are surveillance cameras. Workers know this, and many times patrons do as well, but they

forget or think they can get by it.

“Most of the casino hotel parking lot is covered by surveillance,” Skellie said. “There is not an angle where you can escape a surveillance camera.”

Most thieves` body language gives them away, if they are not caught on surveillance with cards up their sleeves.

And though it may seem impossible to cheat anywhere but on the tables, there are hundreds of devices that have been confiscated by casino workers that were once

used to manipulate slot machines.

With table games though, cheating usually takes place with help from the dealer, Skellie said.

Jose Oakley, senior director of operations at Isle of Capri Casino, said cheating affects the entire gaming industry as a whole. But they have applied procedures to

their employees in order to protect them from cheating.

“If they follow these procedures, they should have no fear of any type of cheating problems,” he said.

MGC has also introduced internal controls, not only with surveillance, but also with everything from how to handle the stick on a craps table to how to deal cards.

When a casino is unfortunate enough to experience some type of cheating though, the person is turned over to the MGC. Depending on the extensiveness of the

cheating, the MGC makes the call as to what happens to that person or persons.

But as with any form of theft, there are people who take cheating very seriously in trying to find ways to scam or cheat a casino.

“They go so far as to create their own procedures and manuals in order to be successful,” Oakley said. “When you have the good, you always have the bad

unfortunately.”

With today`s technology, it is becoming more and more difficult to manipulate slot machines, though, Oakley said. But devices used to manipulate slot machines have

been confiscated in the past by the MGC. “Fortunately we have not had that here (recently) in this particular market (Vicksburg),” he said.

More than anything, Isle of Capri is making it their number one goal to ensure the safety of their customers, by offering a safe environment and a zero tolerance for

cheaters.

Mississippi has the second largest casino industry in square footage, after Atlantic City and before Nevada.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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