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  • Willy Allison

It’s Time to Take Collusion Seriously

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

col-lu-sion: secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, esp. in order to cheat or deceive others.

I’m a closet “scrap booker.” I Google and collect casino scam news reports from around the world. I’ve been doing it for over 5 years now and have managed to build quite a collection. Some people collect baseball cards. Some people collect toilet seats. I collect casino scam articles.

Actually to be honest, I fell into scrap booking by chance. Each month in the Catwalk I like to highlight my favorite casino scam in the news. I’ve set up Google alerts for key casino scam phrases and once a month I jump on the Internet and Google. Back when we started the Catwalk I used to find about 5 worthy news reports a month. Scamming casinos seems to have grown in popularity over the last 5 years and I now have about 10 reports every month to choose from. Being a bit of a casino scam historian, I thought it might be useful one day if I printed and kept the “runner-up” scams instead of just ditching them. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them, (maybe compile a collection of kid’s bedtime stories) but I think this is important information and would hate history to be lost because of a web administrators delete button.

A few years ago, around about the time the economic downturn began in 2008, I realized my collection of articles was growing at such a rate I was going to have to divide my scrapbook into multiple scrapbooks. I now have scrapbooks for each of the following categories: Player Cheating, Player Theft & Robbery, Employee Theft and Collusion. Pound for pound the Collusion scrapbook weighs the most- by far. In fact, my 2012 New Year resolution is to add a half-inch to my biceps by routinely curling my Collusion scrapbook.

Over the holidays I had a chance to spend some time going back over the scams in my scrapbooks. The biggest thing that stands out to me (apart from the large amounts casinos are getting taken for) was that history seems to frequently repeat itself…time and time again.

Even though players and dealers are increasingly using computers, cell phones and concealed cameras to scam casinos (the three C’s of the modern day cheater), in most cases the methods are just a variation on the same theme used in the past. Casino cheating techniques can generally be placed into 4 categories: 1) Changing wagers after the result 2) Changing the result after the wager 3) Illegally obtaining “inside” information and 4) Putting in the fix.

The scrapbooks tell an interesting story. Collusion scams are bigger today then they ever were. More front-line casino employees and trusted managers are being recruited to shovel chips from casino floats and into the waiting hands of associates planted on the game. The collusion scams are highly organized and becoming more innovative and daring.

I have lots of theories and thoughts on why staff seem to be conspiring more to bring down the house but I’m not here to give criminals excuses for the judge. I would prefer to focus more on how we as an industry can get on top of this growing problem that no one seems to want to talk about.

Lets first start by acknowledging and educating the people who have the ultimate responsible for running and controlling what goes on in the casino. To get the resources to combat the threat of organized crime, we as game protection professionals need to convince senior management and casino owners that the threat is real and is growing.

To help achieve this goal I suggest starting a senior management scam awareness program. Maybe start your own scrapbook and share the contents with your bosses and owners on a regular basis. Maintaining a scrapbook only takes about 2 hours a month. You could also produce and email a monthly report to your bosses that include scams and game protection trends from around the world. Everyone likes a good casino scam story. It may seem like cramming it down their throats (like the adopt an abused pet TV commercials over Christmas) but at least you’re giving them the heads up and keeping them informed of trends in the business. At the very least you should consider the exercise of maintaining a scrapbook to be compiling a really cool and contemporary training manual for your team.

My next piece of advice is to try and communicate the threat of collusion in terms of the potential long-term cost to the casino. Nothing speaks louder then numbers. I do this by explaining how continued lack of detection can cost the casino over a long time. Even skimming small amounts can add up. In my experience employee theft and collusion scams are usually not a one-time event.

Moving forward in 2012, every surveillance operation should consider developing a collusion strategy. The best way to get on top of any security problem is to focus and prioritize resources in proportion to the threat. Be proactive and go after the threat.

I would like to see more surveillance operations take a leaf out of the book of some of the mega-casinos in Asia. They are focusing on the real threats by dividing the department up into specialized groups that focus on specific areas. Surveillance personnel who excel in individual areas are assigned to teams that focus on their area of expertise within the casino. They are responsible for auditing, analyzing and investigating their areas of expertise.

Divisionalizing surveillance operations creates highly skilled teams. Individuals are held accountable for their areas of responsibility and gain trust and respect by senior management and internal customers for their specialized expertise. Probably more importantly, team members are assigned to areas they actually enjoy monitoring and protecting instead of watching something they have no interest in. The result is higher motivation levels and increased performance and detections.

For me the days of expecting all surveillance operators to be a jack-of-all-trades (masters of none) is, in my opinion, old school and ineffective in getting the best out of your people. Hiring ex-cross roaders and gaming people may have worked ok back in the days when surveillance was responsible for protecting a dozen table games and a couple of hundred slot machines but casinos have become massive entertainment centers with expanded revenue streams, cash transaction points and greater opportunities for digital theft and fraud. Training is often out dated and focused on old tricks and dog & pony shows instead of a risk-based approach of assessing the threats and vulnerabilities that exist in the new age casino. Training programs for surveillance staff should be less general and more specialized in detecting and investigating collusion scams.

Finally, casinos must realize that sweeping employee theft and collusion scams under the carpet may save management short-term embarrassment but long term the industry suffers as a whole. For all the news articles I have in my scrapbooks I suspect there are just as many scams that have not been reported. By not sharing information and having the opportunity to learn from our history, I fear the industry runs the risk of being lured into a false sense of security and complacency while profit margins hemorrhage from collusion scams.

In my mind the key to combating the continued growth of collusion scams is sharing information that can help other casinos prevent or detect organized collusion scams in an unconditional and timely manner. If the industry doesn’t come together on this issue the snowball will keep rolling and gaining size. In an age where I can be instantly alerted when Brittany Spears is not wearing panties, why can’t we all be alerted whenever there is an organized crime team targeting casinos?


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