This week we began our three-part segment on history’s greatest casino scams to go along with the CoolCat Clue promotion. To recapitulate, what Erik wrote about dice sliding, which is the special dice throwing technique with the purpose of narrowing odds, he wrote about switching cards in blackjack, he wrote about the baccarat scam in Australia, and he wrote about the highly technological and remarkable Ritz Roulette scam. The fact that those people got away with it is still baffling to me. Without further ado, here comes the greatest casino scams: part 2.
Slots are computers, right? Therefore they can be hacked, right? Well, true, but to do so in the 70s was really, really, hard, not to mention today. This didn’t seem to stop the locksmith Dennis Nikrasch. He managed to steal $6 million from computer-based slot machines. The problem was that the slot machines were not connected to any kind of network.
To make a long story short, Dennis bought a slot machine, computer chips that regulate slot machines, and last but not least a key that could open up slot machines; the last one he bought off the black market. He modifies the chips to trigger a payoff any time he wanted. Now comes the hard part, as if programming the chips isn’t hard already. Nikrasch, along with a team of view blockers to shield his actions from the cameras, would open up a slot machine and replace the chip inside with the one he programmed. Talk about risky. Everything was going smoothly until one of his buddies sold him out and set him up for a bust. You gotta be able to trust your team.
Another “dude” tried a very similar stunt. Ronald Dale “The Dude” Harris was a computer programmer that worked for the Nevada Gaming Control Board as a machine inspector. This clearly gave him the opportunity to modify the machines.
In a nutshell, he would hide a tiny bit of programming in the machine that allowed for a maximum payout after a specific sequence of coin drops and pulls. Obviously, he was not allowed to collect winnings from machines, so he obtained an accomplice, and a pretty stupid one, at that: Reid Errol McNeal. As soon as he won his $100,000, immediately acted suspicious; he didn’t jump and scream for joy, he didn’t have proper ID to collect, and was so close to security as he left that he was practically escorted. After investigating, the NGCB was led to McNeal’s apartment where they found everything they could possibly want to arrest McNeal, including Ronald Harris. Needless to say, they were both busted.
The Hidden Camera Scam
This one is practically out of a movie. A group of cheaters got together and rigged up a camera that could be hidden in a cufflink. They took advantage of the tradition in baccarat that the dealer allows a player to cut the deck before dealing.
This group of “cutters” would have one person cut the deck and to finish off the cut, he would slightly slide the cards separating them so that the camera could record the order. That player would excuse himself from the table to “use the restroom” and hand off the information to his partners who would analyze it and set up the “cheat sheet.” They would all inconspicuously, then, sit at the table and apply their knowledge. Even though they got caught at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, they eventually escaped along with $1 million.
We’re getting close to the all-time greatest casino scams in history. Stop by next week to read which ones take the cake.