LAS VEGAS — Faulty preshuffled cards that ensnared Golden Nugget Atlantic City in a costly scandal also proved to be a problem for other casinos across the country, a surveillance director told attendees at a national gambling conference Monday.
“That exact same thing happened in our property, except that within one hand, we caught it,” Darrin Hoke, director of surveillance at L’Auberge Du Lac Hotel and Casino in New Orleans, said during one of several sessions held at the annual Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.
“Card security is a big issue right now, especially when you talk about the high-dollar, high-visibility thing that is happening in Atlantic City,” Hoke said.
The Atlantic City shuffling debacle made headlines after 14 gamblers won $1.5 million at mini-baccarat in April as a result of improperly shuffled cards. The cards were supposed to have been shuffled in a warehouse prior to arriving on the casino floor, but due to a manufacturing glitch they were not.
Some casinos that identified the mishap are now requiring that preshuffled cards be shuffled again once they arrive at the table.
“Because we’re paranoid, we shuffled our preshuffled cards before we put them out to play,” Hoke said.
The expo, which runs through Thursday, is one of the industry’s largest trade shows, featuring an exhibit floor that opens today with hundreds of companies showcasing their products and services. An estimated 26,000 people are expected to attend.
On Monday, the expo opened with a limited set of sessions on several topics, including security and surveillance.
In recent years, casinos have been buying preshuffled cards as a way to cut down on the 20 minutes required for a dealer to hand-shuffle the cards at the table, Hoke said.
The errors have led some casinos to rethink buying preshuffled cards, Hoke said.
“What’s the point of paying for preshuffled cards?” he asked.
Hoke also discussed instances in which teams of slot machine players descend on a casino, especially during promotions, and take advantage of plays that give a favorable return of 5 percent or more, particularly ones that offer progressive payouts.
The players are able to turn an investment of $20,000 into the ability to play as if they had about $400,000 in coins, Hoke said, citing video poker as one game popular with such teams because it involves an element of skill.
“They’re hammering a machine to win a progressive,” he said, adding that the practice is legal but costly to casinos. “It’s money that goes out the door that you’ll never see again.”
While players who take advantage of casino promotions and progressive payouts are not breaking a law, casinos also are being targeted by criminals. In one instance, an organized ring of roulette gamblers — with as many as 180 members — have targeted casinos across the country, Hoke said.
The gamblers work as a team, with one buying into a game with chips at a low price and secretly hoarding them. While other team members distract the dealer, the gambler passes the chips to another member who plays the pieces but at a higher price.
New Jersey is one of many states the ring has hit, Hoke said, adding that he was able to identify the locations based on cellphone records and photos confiscated from suspects. Many of those casinos might not know they were victims, Hoke said.
Atlantic City was well-represented at the expo, including a session led by professors from Richard Stockton College, who unveiled the results of a study they conducted on smoke-free casinos, surveying 3,000 people on whether the existence of a smoke-free policy would affect their decision to visit a resort.
Only 10 percent of respondents said a smoke-free policy would deter them from visiting, said Brian Tyrrell, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management studies.
“Half of the smokers said they would be willing to visit or it made no difference,” he said.
In contrast, nonsmokers were 30 to 1 more likely to visit if such a policy were in place.
Revel is Atlantic City’s newest casino and the only one with a smoke-free policy. Professors said it was premature to measure the casino’s lagging performance based on the existence of the policy.
The expo continues today with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting that opens the doors of the exhibit.
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