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From From The Las Vegas Sun
As the old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
In Las Vegas and other gambling hubs, that certainly holds true when it comes to cheating. Some swindles have been successful; others failed miserably.
“There’s always a temptation to cheat whenever there’s money,” said Howard Schwartz, who, as a former owner of the Gambler’s Book Club, keeps tabs on the gaming industry. “People are always looking for an edge.”
When the Global Gaming Expo rolled into town last week, it included several sessions devoted to security and surveillance in casinos. A description of one such session, “Finding Fraud: Current and Future Trends in the Gaming Industry,” noted that, “Scams and thefts can take many forms, but they all involve fraud in one way or another.”
Despite technology advances through the years, con artists have used phones, computers and magnets, among other tactics, to gain a winning advantage, Schwartz said.
Here are a few notable scams that have been used to swindle money from casinos since the 1970s:
Dennis Nikrasch, who has been labeled the “mastermind of the biggest slot-cheating schemes in Nevada history,” beat the system by using a slot machine key. Bill Zender, a former Nevada Gaming Control agent who is now a gaming consultant, said, in the late 1970s and early '80s, Nikrasch and his associates would make an imprint of a slot machine cabinet key while distracting slot machine mechanics. Later, they would use the key to open the machine and rig the electronic machines, setting the reels on a winning jackpot combination.
After being caught and serving one prison sentence, Nikrasch returned to use more sophisticated methods to cheat the slot machines, Zender said. According to a story in the Las Vegas Sun archives, Nikrasch, who later changed his last name to McAndrew, netted about $16 million from his slot machine scams. He served two prison sentences.
Nikrasch’s scams earned him entry into Nevada’s “black book,” a list of people banned from casinos, in 2004, according to Sun archives.
Tommy Carmichael, who has a spot in Nevada’s black book, is known as the inventor of multiple cheating devices for slot machines.
One of those devices that Carmichael invented was a light wand designed to trick slot machines into releasing more coins, said George Joseph, a gaming consultant. The approximately 7-inch wand that involved a battery, magnet and miniature light would enable people to steal a couple hundred dollars at a time when inserted up the shoot of a slot machine, Joseph said.
Carmichael used knowledge gained from his days running a television repair shop in Tulsa, Okla., to create the cheating devices, Joseph said.
According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Carmichael was convicted of cheating twice in Nevada and once in New Jersey. He received a federal conviction in 2000 for his role as a principal member of a nationwide cheating operation.
He’s listed as a “substantial threat to the gaming industry” on the gaming board’s excluded persons list.