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Arnold M. Knightly

Official: Law aims to stay step ahead of casino cheats

5 April 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The success of cheaters beating the casinos goes in cycles.

"Technology and methods of the cheaters evolve, the casinos and gaming companies adapt and catch up. But then the cheaters try something new.

""It is a cat-and-mouse game," said James Edwards, investigator for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. "Right now the cat has the advantage but you can bet the mouse is hard at work."

"Edwards made his comments Wednesday during a presentation at the International Conference on Asian Organized Crime & Terrorism being held this week at the Las Vegas Hilton.

"The conference attracted law enforcement personnel from all around the world. It focused on different aspects of Asian organized crime ranging from money laundering to human trafficking to terrorism threats.

"The conference comes as gambling in Macau booms; Edwards described the potential for gambling growth there as limitless. Therefore, some conference workshops addressed casino crimes.

"Edwards, who has worked for the board since 1977, drew from his years of experience to expose cheating related to slots and table games.

"One of the largest problems facing casinos for years was the cheater's ability to manipulate payouts from slot machines. However, slot cheating declined sharply with the introduction of cashless ticket in-ticket-out machines, he said. Advantage: cat.

"Nevertheless, Edwards said, players still try to find ways to manipulate the machines.

""(Cheaters) never give up," he said.

"Whether the cheat scheme comes in off the street, or is on the company payroll, it is a game of deception that doesn't stop until the cheater is caught, Edwards said.

""Casinos don't know everything about cheating," said Edwards, adding that the board has gathered much of its information on cheats over from people who've been caught.

"He added that casinos rely too much on cameras and scams usually happen when the properties don't follow their own procedures.

""Cameras don't stop crime, it records crime," Edwards said. "Cameras don't deter cheaters."

"Even with recordings, people must watch what happened, Edwards suggested. Did the dealer properly cut the cards? He went through the proper motions.

"Did the dealer properly show her hands before surrendering the table to the next dealer? It sure looks like she did.

"Edwards said the human brain conspires against people charged in the gaming industry with protecting the integrity game. Sometimes, the law has to catch up, too.

"After the growth of card-counting computer programs in the mid-1980s, the state Legislature enacted a law banning the use of card-counting devices.

"Edwards said the "college tech kids" in California who were developing the systems seemed to "stop overnight" when the activity became criminal.

""If you want to go work for a company like Boeing, they did not need an arrest on their résumé."