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Casino Crimes and Scams; Travel Advisory Books Captivating Reading

18 February 2004

Ralph Taylor's Casino Crimes and Scams (131 pages, paperbound, $11.95) and Travel Advisory (How to Avoid Thefts, Cons and Street Scams While Traveling) by Bambi Vincent and Bob Arno (253 pages, hardbound, $22.95) have arrived at Gambler's Book Shop along with the final issue of Blackjack Forum (Winter 2003/04) (98 pages, magazine format $14.95). What goes on in the minds of those who try to scam a casino from the inside (employees) or outside (players, visitors)? How are these thefts planned and then executed? Few are ever on the level of Ocean's Eleven (the original movie with Sinatra, later the remake with Clooney). But millions of dollars may make their way of the casinos nationally and internationally each year by thieves, while countless would-be crooks end up in court and prison.

Ralph Taylor, a former Philadelphia policeman, later a casino surveillance expert tells how many of these scams operated, how the perpetrators were caught and how the whole "cat and mouse" game operates and still does, daily, everywhere.

More than 30 types of crimes are described, some keyed to Atlantic City casinos (where the author worked), others which could have happened anywhere gambling exists.

There are check frauds; credit card frauds; those involving the front desk; the restaurant; coupons; bus trips; the drop box; telephones; auto theft; counterfeit money; laundering of money. There seems no end to people's imagination when it comes to trying to pull a fast one in a casino, including embezzlement and false claims against an establishment.

This is not a how-to-do-it book, rather it's a chronicle of a man who's seen it all, investigated the crimes, and who describes how the crimes were set up and later detected. This would be a good book for anyone who plans to get into casino surveillance or security‹a sort of detailed checklist of how imaginative, creative and desperate people can be.

Bob Arno and his wife Bambi Vincent are experts on how thieves operate in resort areas, including Las Vegas. Anywhere a tourist shows he or she has money, there's a professional thief trying to get some or all of it‹including your luggage, cameras and anything else of value you manage to flash or expose.

Arno is an authority on "wires" or pickpockets, as they are more commonly known. He knows how street criminal operate and has advised law enforcement and security personnel in this country and abroad.

The authors are often seen on cable TV channels explaining how thieves operate in this country and overseas. His book, containing nine chapters illustrated, indexed, discuss how tourists can protect themselves by the way they dress and act; what countries are safe or unsafe; information about money; credit cards; how to be safer at airports; luggage considerations; traveling by train; driving keeping yourself, your goods and your car overseas.

Many scams are perpetrated in crowds, in restaurants or anywhere there's a chance for "misdirection," including pretending someone is helping you or offering you an item for sale, while they're picking your pocket or lifting your purse, watch or what's in your backpack.

The authors have even interviewed professional thieves, learning how they operate, so countermeasures to their moved can be applied. There are discussions of how the three-shell games; three-card monte and the pigeon drop scams work along with the fast-growing Nigerian letter/fax/e-mail cons work.

A final section, and an important one involves identity theft, how to avoid being a victim and what to do if you are victimized, including Internet resources.

This may be the most important book ever published for those who want protection, peace of mind and some sense of confidence their vacation won't be ruined by a thief.

Since 1981, serious blackjack players and equally serious casino management looked forward to new issues of Blackjack Forum. Sadly, the last issue (Winter 2003/04, 98 pages, $$14.95) has been published.

Each issue was like a small book, packed with ideas, reports, letters, letters answering other letters with theories about counting, legal questions and a roundup of what was happening in each state and overseas.

This final issue, worth the price, even beyond it being a collector's item, prepares the serious 21 player for what conventions will be in Las Vegas throughout 2004, so one might be less noticed as a counter ("plan your attacks, find the crowds and design your costume and act"). Simply a large, wild, busy crowd at a particular hotel or steady continuous action throughout the city means less "heat" by the House on the player with skill. Each listing advises how to "blend in" or camouflage effectively.

Those who are unaware of who Keith and Marty Taft are will soon find out, courtesy of a fine interview done with the Tafts. (Keith Taft created the first blackjack computer 34 years ago.)

James Grosjean and Previn Mankodi discuss the Free Ace coupon and what could be done with it if you were allowed to bet anything (any given wager size). The article includes some of the most advanced charts, tables and mathematical formulas I've seen since Peter Griffin's classic work, The Theory of Blackjack.

Hal Marcus, owner of StickySoft and the super-selling 6-7-8 Blackjack software, has an article titled Counter Basic Strategy -- Is It For You? Barfarkel writes about Graduating from Red to Green; and those who plan to travel to Nepal to play in Kathmandu casinos there, must read the article by the BJ Traveller.

Material on what's happening the Reno-Tahoe area should prove helpful to the Northern Nevada players and Robert Loeb's article on pending legal decisions regarding counters will bring you up to date in that area. Final sections offer a roundup of where to play or avoid around the country.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites: