Saturday, January 09, 2010

UK's Gala Casinos Say They're Not Afraid of Cheats! Should They Be?

Source: Dominic Walsh TimesOnline

For decades the casino inspector has been seen as crucial to preventing gamblers from stacking the odds in their favour. Dressed in black tie, the inspectors would sit at the end of a roulette table, monitoring betting patterns and the behaviour of punters and croupiers to ensure that there was no cheating. I for one can vouch for this as during my career as the world's most prolific casino cheat, London's casinos were the toughtest to beat, especially the roulette wheels, each of which had an inspector sitting on a high chair right above the layout, who never took his eyes off it for a second. Sometimes I had to wait for the guy to sneeze to make a cheat move. That was the only way he'd close his eyes for a split-second!

But one of Britain’s biggest casino operators has decided to make big cuts to the number of inspectors it employs in an effort to cut costs and cash in on the growing sophistication of electronic surveillance. Gala Coral is to cut 53 inspectors at its four London casinos and is to review employment levels at its 22 regional venues.

In a confidential memo to staff that The Times has seen, the company reveals plans to reduce the ratio of inspectors to croupiers or dealers from the norm of 1 to 1.5 or 1 to 2 to a ratio of 1 to 3.

The memo reads: “Due to the current economic climate, the company requires to cut its costs.” It argues that the change, which has been approved by the Gambling Commission, owes also to “better working practices and security measures, including the centralised camera room”.

One veteran casino executive said: “Gala has obviously decided that the cost savings from having fewer inspectors will more than outweigh any additional losses from cheating. In practice, there is very little cheating, so it’s probably a good call.”

A Gala casino employee, who asked not to be named, said that longserving staff were being treated with “complete and utter contempt” by the company, and that the redundancies were “simply an exercise to sack higher-paid staff”.

But Neil Goulden, the Gala Coral chairman, denied last night that staff had been treated badly. He said: “It’s unfortunate but we needed to do it.” He added that many of those affected had been redeployed, and that those who had taken redundancy had been offered generous terms.

He claimed that in recent years, as numerous dealers had left, many inspectors had additionally taken on the dealing role. As a result, its London casinos had become “very top heavy” with inspectors.

Mr Goulden confirmed that there would be 53 redundancies among its London inspectors, saving £500,000, although the group would also be recruiting up to 50 dealers. He said there was less of an issue at its provincial clubs, adding: “We’re still looking at whether we need to do anything.”

He said that the latest cuts were part of a “massive efficiency drive” at the embattled group over the past two years as it reacted to the impact of the smoking ban, the recession and new gambling laws on its casinos, bingo clubs and betting shops. Over the past two years, the total number of employees has been reduced by 1,350 to 18,150, including 250 head-office staff. Many of the 1,000 bingo cuts were natural wastage.

News of the casino redundancies comes amid delays to the proposed refinancing of the group’s £2.5 billion debt burden. The company had hoped to have it arranged by Christmas, but an impasse has pushed back a solution until next month. People close to the process reckon that the senior lenders will reject a £300 million equity injection from Blackstone and Permira and opt to convert £540 million of mezzanine debt into equity.

So, should all the poker cheat and casino cheat teams of the world unite and attack Gala Casinos? Absolutely. If they're reducing their anti-cheat staff, they're increasing the odds of successful cheat moves.