Monday, August 17, 2009

New Inside Casino Cheat Rage--Player Club Cheats!

Inside Casino Scams involving employees have been proliferating exponentially since the economic crisis began almost a year ago. Perhaps this is directly related to dealers and pit bosses feeling the crunch due to the struggling economy. We've been seeing everything from false-shuffle baccarat scams to late-betting craps scams to slot machine ticket-scams. The new rage is casino employees combing their casinos and ripping of patrons´Player Club accounts.

Players Clubs and other casino customer-point-collecting-for-play systems is at the heart of a casino’s marketing machine. They all use swipe cards to track gamblers’ play as they rack up points to redeem for meals, hotel stays, merchandise and even cash. So critical are these massive, good-as-cash databases to casino profits that, if there were to be an Oceans 14 movie, the next great casino heist might target the computers that manage them. This is because casino insiders are raiding gamblers’ loyalty points, according to casino regulators and security experts. In one scheme, casino employees with access to players club databases transferred points from customers’ accounts to bogus accounts from which an accomplice was able to redeem the points for tangible rewards. Employees also have created accounts and loaded them with bogus points. Thefts are usually uncovered when customers discover their accounts have been drained.

These thefts have prompted new course work focusing on players club security as part of casino surveillance and security programs at UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board will hold workshops in coming weeks with casino operators to try to clamp down.

Catching insiders who embezzle points can be difficult, security experts say. A more elaborate scenario involves slot technicians who roam the floor with generic players club cards used to test slot machines. In some cases, slot techs have loaded those cards with points that can be transferred to a “player” who puts in his card afterward.

The increase in players club thefts isn’t surprising given that most casino crimes involve slot machines as well as employees. Casino employees not only have access to sensitive information but also can attempt to cover their tracks. A Players Club supervisor at a casino in Washington state was indicted by federal prosecutors in May for draining about $20,000 worth of points earned by casino players and issuing cash vouchers that were redeemed by friends. Casino security efforts are still focused on more traditional cheating methods and haven’t caught up with the massive growth of casino players clubs.

Over the years, technological advances — especially electronic slot machines that are hooked up to computer servers and spit out winnings in the form of paper tickets — have opened new doors for thieves, including counterfeit tickets and the manipulation of player records. Instead of stealing buckets of coins, they can move money around more easily.

These advances also have yielded more tools to combat theft, such as daily records of slot activity. Managers can use these records to sniff out discrepancies from typical payouts by slot machines, for example. Players club systems may also show which employees have accessed the records and how they were changed.

Not all scams involve outright theft. In some cases, casino hosts — who are often compensated based upon the gambling volume of players on their roster — have manipulated points records to receive credit for players who were assigned to other hosts. And some creative cheats have opened multiple players club accounts to obtain several cards, which they insert into machines that are played by gamblers who don’t have cards of their own. The thieves collect the cards after the players leave.

Poor communication and training is mostly to blame for the persistence of players club scams. There’s little communication between the slot manager, surveillance and security. Casinos need insider teamwork to root out their bad employees and catch the cheats.