Casinos tap intelligence network to beat cheaters
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — The man at the poker table had a ball cap pulled down almost to his nose, but his glance up at a television screen revealed a familiar face to Mohegan Sun’s surveillance cameras: A photograph of the known card cheater had been sent by bulletin to casinos around the country.
Within hours, the bettor was arrested, accused of marking cards with invisible ink.
“The officer who identified him, basically she had a ‘Holy crap!’ moment,” said Jay Lindroos, the casino’s surveillance director. “She saw the face and said, ‘I recognize that guy!’”
Casinos from the U.S. to Australia use their own intelligence network to warn one another about cheaters. As table games spread across the Northeast, resorts are using it more than ever to stay ahead of suspect players — professional thieves and card counters — who can easily hit multiple casinos in the span of a few days.
Mohegan Sun, one of the world’s largest casinos, began sharing intelligence a decade ago with its giant, next-door rival in southeastern Connecticut, the Foxwoods Resort Casino. Although it was once less common for casinos to talk with competitors, the online network has evolved through mutual self-interest.
“If something happens at Foxwoods at 1 o’clock, we’ll be aware of it no later than 2, 2:30,” said Joseph Lavin, director of public safety for the Mohegan Tribe, which owns and operates the casino. “It won’t take more than a day or so before that information goes to Atlantic City, goes to Pennsylvania, goes out to upstate New York.”
The element of luck makes it impossible to know exactly how much revenue is lost to cheaters, but 100 percent casino surveillance coverage is a security standard for a U.S. industry that generates tens of billions of dollars annually.
Workers at Mohegan Sun monitor feeds from roughly 4,000 cameras, scrutinizing the dealers as closely as they do the players. On a given day, they could be on the lookout for as many as hundreds of faces, some pointed out by other casinos, others by law enforcement agencies seeking criminals who might be trying to launder money.
If a camera picks up somebody who’s been flagged for possible cheating, security officials said they’ll watch the person play before taking any action.
The man arrested Sept. 15, Bruce Koloshi, 54, was the subject of a security bulletin issued two weeks earlier by officials in Louisiana. He had cheating convictions in Iowa and Nevada and was facing charges in Louisiana that he marked cards last month at the L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge.
After the surveillance officer spotted him, Koloshi was seen moving his hands away from the Mississippi Stud poker table, allegedly for the marking substance, and cameras detected the ink that wasn’t visible to the naked eye. Koloshi wore special contact lenses to see the ink, authorities said. He was arrested and charged with cheating, conspiracy to commit larceny and being a fugitive from justice. His bond was set at $300,000.
When he was questioned in Louisiana, he surrendered $3,300 in winnings though authorities did not have enough evidence to charge him at the time, according to Capt. Doug Cain, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police. Mohegan Sun officials said Koloshi was arrested at their casino before winning a significant amount.
A person who answered the phone at Koloshi’s home in Summit, N.J., declined to speak with a reporter. His defense attorney was not available for comment.
The warning about Koloshi was relayed by the Division of Gaming Enforcement in Delaware, where table games were introduced in 2010. The division’s director, Daniel Kelly, said information sharing has increased as Northeastern states have legalized more types of gambling. It also has become more important, he said, because cheaters have so many potential targets in a small geographic area.
“Within an hour, they can be in three or four different states,” Kelly said.
High-level casino cheats are considered rare, but Mohegan Sun officials say they frequently see card counters and other “advantage players,” people who are not breaking the law but have skills that bend the odds in their favor. Lavin said card-counting techniques were glamorized by the story of a group of MIT students who scored big wins at casinos, including his, in the 1990s.
One tell-tale sign for surveillance workers is gamblers placing higher bets than might be expected with the hands they’re dealt. When card counters are discovered, Lindroos says, the casino will restrict their play by keeping them to betting the minimum or suggest they try a different game.
“The professionals, as soon as they see somebody walking over toward them, they’ll say, ‘OK, I’m out of here,’” Lindroos said.
Michael Melia can be reached at https://twitter.com/MikeMeliaAP