Have you all read or heard about the major Vietnamese baccarat cheating ring that was busted in the US and Canada yesterday? It took casinos in the two countries for between $3 million and $5 million, according to FBI, RCMP and Gaming Control Authority investigations.
Well, if any of you have read my book "American Roulette," you might remember it was I who invented and performed that very same scam back in 1977, the simple false-shuffle move at the mini baccarat table. It was the launch of my legendary casino-cheating career. In fact, it is one of the most entertaining facets of the book. I also wrote about a Chinese version of the same scam that took place in Macao in late 90s and was perpetrated by one of the infamous Triads, the Chinese Mafia. This was known as the Kowloon Baccarat Scam and is one of the chapters in my new book, "The World's Greatest Gambling Scams."
Here's an article about me and this scam that appeared today in the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper. Following that is their article about the scam that got busted yesterday.
Oh, by the way, when I did the same scam I didn't get caught. The reason this Vietnamese gang did get caught was that they were too greedy and involved way too many people. Up to as many as 40 people were involved, at least 35 too many!
EX-CON MAN RECOGNIZES SWINDLE
May 26, 2007 04:30 AM
Richard Marcus says he knows exactly how $2 million was allegedly scammed from Casino Rama. After all, he came up with the idea in the 1970s.
Marcus was a Las Vegas baccarat dealer when he devised a scheme similar to the one outlined by American investigators following Thursday's arrests of 15 people in Ontario and 16 in the United States. Seven others are still wanted.
Within two weeks of developing the cheat, Marcus, 50, estimates he and his accomplice stole $40,000 (U.S.) from the casino, which was a lot of money back then, he said.
"It's very easy. Just take a deck of cards and shuffle them, (but) protect a certain amount of it. That's called the slug," he said. "It's harder for the eye in the sky – the surveillance cameras – to catch; even on a zoom-in."
An accomplice would be writing down the order in which the cards appeared, which is allowed. That way, when the first few cards of the slug start appearing, players know to start betting big.
"I did it in a way that I wasn't even on the table when it happened. I fixed up the shoe (where the cards are kept) and left the shoe there to be dealt by the dealer who was relieving me," he said.
Cheaters play only one shoe, collect their winnings and bolt so the scam is over by the time casino staff notice the huge hit the table is taking.
Marcus estimates he has scammed $20 million from casinos over 30 years – including ones in Windsor, Niagara Falls and Montreal – but he didn't start out as a con artist.
A lucky score of $20,000 took him to Las Vegas where, armed with fake I.D., he won another $100,000.
For weeks, he lived the life of a high roller, complete with an all-expenses paid room at the Riviera hotel, lost everything on his 20th birthday and later became a baccarat dealer on the strip.
One night Joe Classan, who turned out to be from the same part of New York as Marcus, sat down at his table.
"We started talking and there was just a vibe between us. ... He wanted to know why I had never tried to scam the casino. He told me about the money I could make. He said `come up with something good.'"
Within two weeks of developing the scheme, Marcus had stolen $40,000 from the casino, quit his job, and launched his professional career as a con artist. It wasn't until 1999 when he read the book Catch Me If You Can that he felt inspired to quit the game and write his own story, American Roulette. The book is set to become a movie in 2009, he said.
Today, Marcus teaches casinos how to protect themselves against advanced scam artists.
"If I'd been in (Casino Rama) where they got busted, it would not have gone on as long as it did," he said.
Here's article about the busted scam:
CASINO RAMA SCAM BUSTED
BACCARAT CHEATS NETTED $2 MILLION-PLUS AFTER RECRUITING DEALERS, POLICE ALLEGE
May 25, 2007 04:30 AM
Fifteen people have been arrested in a major casino scam that netted more than $2 million from cheating at baccarat in Ontario.
Among those arrested were several employees of Casino Rama near Orillia.
It's alleged that casino dealers were recruited to predetermine the outcome of card games, but police wouldn't reveal details of how the scam was carried out.
Investigators are calling the sting the largest in memory, said OPP spokesperson Sgt. Bob Paterson.
Baccarat, popular with many gamblers, is a hard game to play and one that's difficult to cheat in, said Paul Burns, vice-president of the Canadian Gaming Association.
Burns said it's troubling, albeit not surprising, that inside help would be enlisted.
"Employees, by and large, that work in the gaming industry are honest folks. But ultimately you need checks and balances in the casinos and that's why there's surveillance. That's why dealers deal cards but they don't count money and they don't count chips," he said.
"I'm sure the tactics of how they recruited these people would be interesting in its own right."
The charges follow a 44-month investigation into an alleged international casino cheat team.
The investigation involved the OPP, Windsor police, the FBI and police from several American states.
U.S. authorities said the scheme targeted 18 gaming parlours in Canada, California, Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington state, Indiana and Connecticut.
The scheme netted $3.3 million (U.S.) from the American casinos, according to U.S. indictments unsealed yesterday.
However, interim U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt in San Diego said the actual losses could be much higher.
"We are not aware of any other cases of this magnitude," said Kathy Leodler, acting head of the San Diego FBI field office.
The OPP initiated its investigation after receiving information from the California justice department.
"Only one casino was affected (in Canada), and it was Rama," Paterson said.
Seven of those arrested were scheduled for bail hearings today in Orillia and eight others will make their first court appearance in the city, 115 kilometres north of Toronto, on June 26.
All are charged with fraud over $5,000 and cheating at play, while some face additional charges.
The operation bears the mark of organized crime in the sense that those involved knew each other, Paterson said. "It took some co-operation and planning."
Casino Rama had no comment on the arrests yesterday.
"Because it's an ongoing OPP matter, we don't comment," spokesperson Jenna Hunter said.
"Integrity and security are priorities at Casino Rama and at all (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) locations," she added.
Police have outstanding arrest warrants for seven more people, from Windsor, Barrie, San Diego and Las Vegas.
"They obviously have been tracking these guys and I suspect there's some organization created to do this and they've watched them to ensure they catch them all," Burns said.
The international aspect of the case reflects the tendency of cheats to move to different venues, he said.
"They probably move from casino to casino. Cheats do that. From what I know and have been told and heard, they generally move around."
At the same time, law enforcement agencies work together to combat gaming fraud, he said.
"They share information, descriptions of people and how they operate. There's a lot of information sharing."
"The OPP and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission have people who are specialists in tracking cheats and identifying cheats. And they train the casino surveillance people on what to watch for. They track cheaters because there are known cheaters who operate around," Burns said.
"If the casino knows who they are and suspect cheating, sometimes they just ask them to leave.
``They usually oblige and then move on. On the other hand, if they catch them in the act, they'll throw the book at them."
The arrests are troubling but provide evidence that surveillance works, he said.
"The fact people were arrested says the checks and balances and the regulatory environment worked. I think people can take confidence that the games are fair.
`` The fact people were arrested says the checks and balances and the regulatory environment worked," Burns added.