As history tends to repeat itself, so do past cheating scams. Recently, I read an article about a group of cheaters who successfully attacked a single-zero roulette wheel in a casino in Europe. The cheats were able to influence the wheel results and came away with approximately US$30,000 equivalent. Everything went perfectly until they were searched exiting Switzerland when boarder officials found some suspicious items in one of the individual’s suitcases. What started the entire turn of events was the cheaters had discovered a weakness in the casinos security and exploited the situation to their advantage. Following is a synopsis of the weakness and scam.
How was the scam used to beat the single-zero roulette game?
The casino had a live single-zero roulette table game connected to several video slot machine terminals throughout the casino. A customer could place a wager remotely through an electronic terminal with the eventual outcome determined by the result on a live table game.
During reconnaissance of the casino, the cheaters noted that the staff would remove the roulette wheel head cover before the dealer would open the game. This left the wheel head open and unattended for several minutes. This process became routine, and the cheaters were able to develop a plan around this weakness.
The cheaters manufactured six “pads” that would fit somewhat unnoticed inside a pre-selected number pocket of the wheel. These pads were designed to absorb the energy of the roulette ball entering the pocket, causing the ball to stay instead of bouncing out. This would cause the ball to come to rest in the pocket at a higher percentage of the time than normal random events dictate.
I do not know exactly how much of an influence these pads had on the bounce of the ball, but as you will see, it doesn’t have to be much of an effect to provide the cheaters with an advantage. Note: Early in my career I saw how similar pads were used and what they looked like when inserted into select wheel head pockets. Once inserted, the pads were nearly impossible to detect especially with the wheel head turning.
The scam breakdown
- Since the six altered numbers were black, the pads were also black in color (numbers 8, 11, 17, 24, 26 & 29). The pads were made from a metallic base since they later reacted to a magnet during removal from the wheel head.
- While one cheater acted as a lookout, another cheater walked up to the exposed and unattended wheel head and quickly placed the pads into the desired numbers.
- Once the roulette wheel was open for gaming activity, the cheaters proceeded to make wagers on the affected numbers via the electronic terminals. It can be assumed that they wagered the numbers individually and in combination such as the center column and possibly “black”. Note: The center column contained five of the six affected numbers. Wagering through the remote terminals presented the cheaters with means to stay somewhat obscure and unnoticed.
- After 255 spin decisions the cheaters halted their wagering. Two of the cheaters approached the roulette game; one distracted the dealer while the other removed to six pads. The removal was accomplished very quickly when the second cheater passed a handheld magnet over the wheel head and collected all six metallic based pads.
- The cheaters left the casino after cashing the various electronic terminal TITO tickets. The article stated that the cheaters ended up winning approximately US$30,000 equivalent.
How does the alteration of six pockets change the game?
The mathematics behind this incident is straight forward, but at the same time only a guess on my part. The house advantage on a single-zero wheel is 2.70 percent and is calculated in Table 1.
Table 1 – Mathematical House Advantage of a Single-zero Roulette Wheel
The margin of profitability on any table game is slight, and any change to the mathematics could reverse this thin margin to a mathematical loss. It is unknown how much the pads influenced the game, but if we assume it changes the per pocket occurrence from 1 in 37 spins to, say, 1.1 in 37, the negative effect is quite serious as seen in Table 2.
Table 2 – Negative House Advantage When Altered (Player Advantage)
By altering the outcome to occur 1.1 times every 37 spins the cheaters would have nullified the natural house advantage and created an advantage of their own of about 7.0 percent. While this influence works fine for the cheaters betting each single number, the effect is not great enough to provide them with none or a marginal illegal advantage on other wagers such as Black (0.0 percent) or the center column (2.2 percent). However, if the affect raises the occurrence to 1.2 times every 37 spins, both the “black” and center column (and possibly the “Tier” Quadrant wager) become quite profitable
If the cheaters placing bets on the different remote terminals wagered a combined average of $250 on each of the six effected numbers for the noted 255 spin decisions, they would theoretically “win” the claimed $30,000 based on a 7 percent and do it quite easily.
This scam could have been prevented if management or surveillance had recognized the problem created by removing the wheel head cover before manning the game. Even a few minutes left unprotected can lead to serious problems. Floor supervisors and managers, including surveillance operators should be alert for any breakdown in protection that could reasonably lead to game protection problems.
The next area of concern for casino management is a problem situation that could occur using remote terminals. There needs to be some type of “alert” produced when someone is betting a higher wager on a table game through the remote terminal. The question that needs to be asked is, “Why does someone need to distance themselves from the table and wager remotely? “The solution could be as simple as reducing the maximum amount that can be wagered through remote wagering.
Regardless of the situation, management and game protection personal should be constantly on guard regarding the safeguarding of all equipment used in determining an outcome of the game.