Day 2 of the WGPC began with keynote sessions on unconventional means of beating the casinos. Kicking off the day with High-Tech Casino Crime was Richard Martin and John Anderson from London’s Metropolitan Police Clubs & Vice. When I think of gaming in the UK, the first thing that comes to mind is the trio of eastern Europeans who used a mobile phone equipped with a laser scanner and a microcomputer to win more than $2 million at roulette in 2004. They won the $2 million in a matter of just two evenings at the Ritz Casino in London. The roulette players were arrested but surprisingly, later released and allowed to keep their winnings because at the time they had not violated UK law since the scanner did not interfere with the ball or the wheel. Since 2005, when restrictions on club membership in the UK were lifted and casinos were allowed to stay open 24 hours, there has been a rise in organized gaming fraud as criminals have much more access and opportunity than ever before.
In the second keynote session, Kevin Kelly, who is a surveillance shift manager and training manager at Borgata in Atlantic City, spoke about hole card play. This approach is based on knowledge of the dealer’s hole card. Most hole carders obtain this information legally when the dealer unknowingly exposes the card. Cheaters gain hole card information by warping or marking the cards, or by colluding with the dealer. Knowledge of the dealer’s hole card combined with the correct playing strategy makes for a very powerful game with a player advantage of up to 13%. Hole carders have well trained eyes and with a weak dealer can catch the card in a split second. Kelly is among those who has observed an increase in hole card play in recent years. I don’t find this surprising given that more casinos are now offering hand held single-deck games which are much more vulnerable to hole card exposure than shoe games. Most of these new single-deck games only pay 6/5 on blackjack which is murder on blackjack players, including card counters, but for hole card players it is a price worth paying given the potential of a double digit edge over the house.
After the hole card session, Dave and I took part in a Q & A on team play which was moderated by Willy Allison. After starting with a handful of his own questions, Allison opened it up to the audience. Members of the game protection industry finally had their chance to ask their burning questions about the MIT Blackjack Team. A few examples of the questions asked were, “Which Vegas casino did you most consider a candy store?” and “What was the most important factor to your team’s success?” Everyone seemed to enjoy the interactive format, and at the end of the session a lucky member of the audience received a giveaway. Appropriately enough, it was a brand new iPhone with the card counting app installed.
Throughout the conference I had the opportunity to meet a lot of casino surveillance people. Many of whom have known my face and name for years which made for interesting conversation. Alicia Barney, the surveillance director of Seven Feathers Casino in Oregon told me, “Your face is one of the first faces I had to learn.” Ted Whiting, the director of surveillance at Mirage walked up to me as if we were long, lost friends. When he introduced himself with a big smile, I had been familiar with his name for some time. Now I finally have a face to go with the name. Everyone I met professed a respect for card counters, and a few surveillance people admitted they missed the the cat and mouse game of the 1990’s. They reminisced about the challenge of the good old days of high stakes team play. During our Q & A session, one member of the surveillance community even thanked us for our team’s impact on the casino industry.
The first of the afternoon sessions was Theft: Crime Signals for Casinos by Dr. David Givens. Dr. Givens is an expert on nonverbal communication, and he spoke about how recognizing crucial signs in body language can help spot a criminal before it’s too late. Following Dr. Given’s session was The Tangam Report which was delivered by Max Rubin, gaming consultant and author of Comp City. Barona Valley Ranch Resort and Casino conducted a study in 2008 on how video analytic software can be used to monitor and protect table games. The information gained from the software can be used to increase game efficiency and profitability in areas such as comp management. The keynote sessions concluded with a panel discussion with Ted Whiting, Darrin Hoke & Kevin Kelly. The panel talked about recent developments in game protection. Of the topics discussed the one that most caught my interest is comp fraud. From players tricking slot machines into awarding them credit for hours never played to casino employees entering inflated bet action for co-conspirators, comp fraud has risen dramatically in recent years.
The second day of the conference covered a diverse range of game protection topics, only one of which dealt with card counting. As I spoke with other attendees at the happy hour I realized I had gained a greater understanding and appreciation for what game protection fully entails. I was looking forward to the Golden Dome Awards on day 3, when some of the best casino scams caught on surveillance video would be shown.