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Technology can't beat us, casino cheat says

Radio tracking chips, optical scanning and facial recognition? One notorious cheater says, "Bring it on."

3 min read
A self-proclaimed casino cheater has criticized the effectiveness of many technologies touted as anticheating measures--including controversial solutions like RFID and facial recognition--and suggested they are doomed to expensive failure.

Richard Marcus said he is "more or less retired" but is still widely regarded as a leading authority on casino cheating. Marcus scammed a reported $5 million in Atlantic City, N.J., Las Vegas, London and Monte Carlo over a 25-year period.

Despite seeing a raft of high-tech measures brought in to thwart his kind, Marcus warned the casinos that they're making the wrong bet by backing technology.

But that doesn't mean the cheaters will prosper, he said.

"Almost everybody gets caught," said Marcus, who has never been convicted of any crime against casinos. "But it's not because of the technology. Casino cheats are desperate people, and they do stupid things. Most people get caught because they get too much exposure."

"I don't have to go back into a casino to know my moves will still work," Marcus said. His stock trick relied upon sleight of hand--that is, switching high-denomination chips for lower-value chips in a bet that had won. At his peak, his team used a technique known as pastposting to replace three black $100 chips with two brown $5,000 dollar chips beneath a single black chip. That meant $300 liabilities were reaping payouts from $10,100.

Such a technique theoretically could be spotted by radio frequency identification technology or optical readers in chips, but Marcus said it's unlikely that will ever be the case.

The same, he says, is true of improved surveillance techniques and advanced facial recognition, which Marcus claims is easily outfoxed. "Facial recognition is an absolute zero. There's not one person alive who's ever been caught by facial recognition," he claimed.

Marcus argued that technology is still only as good as the casino's workers, whom he fooled for years. If cheaters don't draw too much attention to themselves, quickly getting onto and then away from the table, it's unlikely their records will be checked.

"And even if they do check, I'd be long gone," Marcus said. In fact, having technology to fall back on is actually making pit bosses and dealers less attuned to what might be happening right under their noses, he argued.

"These people rely upon their technology too much," he said. "There is no room for maneuver in their thinking. I don't have to fool the camera or the technology, I only have to fool the dealer or his pit boss. If I fool them, the technology doesn't come into play."

One casino, Las Vegas' new Wynn resort, has put RFID technology in all its casino chips. Marcus said he believes this will do little more than improve management of chips within the cage. He suggested it will be too fraught with difficulty to use effectively at the tables, citing as examples other systems that have come and gone, proving more trouble than they were worth.

"Let's say they do eventually get this stuff working on the table. A really good cheating team is going to come up with some way to screw around with the chips and the signal," Marcus said.

Similarly, he agreed that it's possible to run systems and behavioral analysis identifying the difference between luck and probable cheating, as the chief information officer of casino giant Harrah's has claimed. But Marcus said an experienced cheater won't stick around waiting for those findings come to light.

"If somebody is winning excessively, then obviously there is more of a chance that cheating is going on," Marcus said. But he expressed doubt that any cheat who knows the trade well would stick around exploiting an improbable "lucky streak."

The greatest value casinos will get from high-profile security rollouts is the deterrent factor, which should immediately eliminate the low-hanging fruit of the cheating world, he said.

"Most cheaters, when they hear about technological advances being made by the casinos, get scared. They change their game or their tactics, or they move on to something else," he said.