The House Wins
How extensive surveillance helps Hollywood Casino catch cheaters
A craps table at Hollywood Casino Columbus
Dispatch File Photo
In the Hollywood Casino Columbus’ first month, you could bet on cheating: 10 people indicted in late November were each accused of multiple felony counts. Prosecutors say one offender was observed padding or shaving bets 23 times.
Cheating is common in a casino’s early days, when players take advantage of inexperienced dealers distracted by the chaos, says Karen Huey, director of enforcement at the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). The same thing happened when Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino opened in May, but cheating leveled off as dealers and gaming agents learned the ropes.
Those playing local odds on illegal activity, beware: You’re being watched. Here’s how.
Hollywood Casino’s state gaming agents must undergo 40 hours of training, says Mark Leatherman, a supervising agent with the OCCC. That includes an intensive session with a retired Nevada agent who teaches game rules and cheating strategies, like marking corners of cards with drops of paint. (Casinos don’t consider counting cards as cheating, though they don’t like it.)
That guy who keeps wandering by your blackjack table? He could be one of several plain-clothes gaming agents patrolling the floor. Agents monitor suspected cheating “to make sure it wasn’t just a mistake or a lack of knowledge,” Huey says. “If it happens again, then we step in.”
More than 1,200 cameras eye casino property, Leatherman says. Some are planted above tables to spot popular cheating methods “capping” and “pinching.” Here, players bet on a table game like craps or blackjack, wait until the outcome’s announced, then add to or subtract from their chips.
Agents monitor video feeds from control rooms inside the casino and at state commission offices. After catching a cheater, they’ll review surveillance footage to find other instances. “Most of the time,” Leatherman says, “multiple instances of cheating happen all in one night.”