Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Major Casino Cheating Ring Busted At Harrah´s In North Carolina!

Cheating ring thwarted at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino

CHEROKEE, North Carolina – An electronic card game dealer and 11 gamblers are suspects in a cheating ring that took $286,000 from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, tribal gaming and police officials said today.

No one has been arrested but investigators have questioned the 26-year-old card dealer, said Chief Ben Reed of the Cherokee Indian Police Department.

The FBI has been contacted, he said.

A two-week internal investigation broke up the ring, said Patrick Lambert, executive director of the Cherokee Tribal Gaming Commission, which regulates gambling operations at the casino. Police were called to take over last week, he said.

The casino offers digital blackjack and a digital game based on baccarat. Cheating in the traditional sense is impossible because the card games are all electronic, with a dealer who pushes a button to “deal” cards that show up on small screens in front of each player at the table.

The cheating ring operated with the dealer paying off players for wins that never occurred, Lambert said. The players then took their chips to the counter and received cash. The dealer got a kickback, he said.

The ring operated for about three weeks.

“We will be pushing for full prosecution of all those involved in this theft,” Lambert said in a written statement about the matter. “We want to assure the public that this scheme never put any patrons or the public in danger and this amounted to a system where a single employee had decided to help a group of players cheat at the table games.”

Lambert said computer programs, which match money paid at the cashier counter with winnings on the gambling floor, first alerted casino officials to the problem.

He declined to discuss how casino officials identified the dealer. No other employees are suspected, he said.

Lambert did say that workers who handle money or chips at Harrah’s Cherokee must follow strict procedures designed to thwart any attempt at theft. The casino floor is constantly monitored by video cameras, he said.

The security measures are in place to create a safe and fair casino, Lambert said.

The ring marks the first time the casino has uncovered cheating. All of its other games are video poker type machines.

The FBI could take the case because it occurred on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, where federal authorities have jurisdiction over major crimes. Reed said he has not heard whether the agency will take over.

If it does not, the case will be handled in Cherokee Tribal Court.

The card dealer, who was an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, could faces charges of embezzling, theft and conspiracy, the police chief said.

A spokeswoman at FBI office in Charlotte said the agency would neither confirm nor deny its involvement in the investigation.