Casinos constantly on lookout for cons

Casinos constantly on lookout for cons
Casinos constantly on lookout for cons 

By Abigail Goldman
Las Vegas Sun
April 09, 2007

They call them fleas. Casino cons. Guys who buzz around the betting 
floor, looking for a scam or a cheat or a fleece.

Jerry Longo, senior investigator for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming 
Commission in Connecticut, illustrates the ubiquity of casino crooks by 
drawing an empty circle on a chalkboard -this is the casino. Then he 
draws arrows; arrows pointing into the circle, arrows pointing out of 
the circle, arrows cutting through the circle, arrows hovering above and 
below the circle. Arrows encompassing - these are the fleas.

"This is how they come at us: from everywhere," he says. "They drop out 
of the sky in parachutes. It's unbelievable, the schemes and the scams 
they come up with."

Longo's crowd, wearing golf shirts and carrying attache cases, leans 
over and takes note. This is the International Conference on Asian 
Organized Crime & Terrorism, a five-day affair that drew 600 to the Las 
Vegas Hilton's convention hall last week . This is Longo's lecture: 
Asian Organized Crime and Casinos. And this is no laughing matter, 
though much of the casino community's inside intelligence is fairly 

Take, for example, the ambitious criminal who crawled into a casino with 
counterfeit chips, dazzling replicas except for one problem: they were 
minted with a misspelling. Instead of "dollar," they read "dolar." As 
in, one worthless "dolar." A casino employee noticed the error and 
assumed it was a rare misprint, a collectors item, like a coin stamped 
with mistakes. The counterfeiter's response to the employee's interest 
didn't help.

"This guy ran like Jesse Owens on fire right into a card table and 
almost knocked himself out," Longo says.

There is a casino security term for situations like this. James Edwards, 
a senior investigator for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, explains it 
during a seminar on cheating table games. It's an acronym, actually: 
JDLR. That's short for "Just Don't Look Right." As in, if things don't 
look right, they probably aren't.

Grainy security footage shows a casino guest approaching a casino dealer 
and slapping her on the face, hard.

This doesn't look right.

Longo pauses the reel, and plays it again: approach, slap, slip away.

"She slaps the crap out of one of my dealers right in front of one of my 
cameras," he says.

A little investigation reveals the slapper is a particularly loathed 
breed of casino parasite - a loan shark.

And the dealer? Well, she was in $100,000 over her head. She was also 
stunned when the casino fired her. Stunned the casino could no longer 
trust her to handle thousands of dollars a day.

"Casinos, if you think of them, we're just big banks," Longo says. "At 
some point, you don't know how much money there is. That's the one flaw 
at a casino. That one little moment in time, that one weak point."

Longo queues another surveillance tape, this one focused on a small 
white room, where a single staff member is watching hundreds of dollars 
fan across a cash counter. He folds a $100 bill into his sleeve, then 
reaches into his vest pocket for a pen.

That one little moment in time. That one weak point.

"The money falls into a pocket, and only the pen comes back," Longo 
says. "There is a connectivity of criminal activity that ends up in 
casinos. Internal, external, it's all connected."

Edwards has another acronym for casinos that don't follow security 
standards to deter criminals and hustlers: BOHICA. That's short for, 
"Bend Over, Here It Comes Again."

Lately, Edwards says, casinos have the upper hand on con artists, who 
are always scrambling for a new cheat.

"We have no idea what they'll come up with next," he says, "But it will 
be pretty sophisticated."

But sophistication is a relative term when it comes to scams. Longo 
plays another security tape. This one lasts one and a half seconds, just 
long enough for the camera to catch a hand darting underneath a dealer's 
nose and snatching $13,000 in poker chips.

"And guess what?" Longo says, fixing the image on the stolen fistful of 
plastic disks. "They don't explode when you run out the door."

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