Experts Tell Penn. Gaming Panel How to Spot, Avoid Casino Cheating

Security experts gave the Gaming Control Board a lesson yesterday on how to protect Pennsylvania's 14 new casinos from being cheated by real-life versions of the "Ocean's Eleven" crew

"He must have had very baggy socks," quipped board member Mary DiGiacomo Colins, a common pleas court judge from Philadelphia.

All three experts said that it's almost impossible to overdo security procedures, stressing the importance of looking into slots manufacturers and distributors, non-gaming vendors and casino employees. The surveillance of activities at the casinos has to continue every single day, since new ways of cheating and new types of electronic technology come out on a regular basis.

"This is very much a game of hide and seek, and if someone has something to hide, they're going to try to hide it from you," said Sterling, who was hired by the Department of Revenue just after the new casino law was enacted in early July.

Speaking of technology, Sterling said modern casinos are using hundreds of advanced security cameras called "pan, zoom and tilt." This means they can swivel their view 360 degrees around a casino floor, zoom in close enough to read the numbers on gambling cards the size of credit cards, and tilt up and down or right to left to keep an eye on patrons and casino employees in all directions.

The types of gambling, and the forms of cheating, are also changing continuously, as more advanced methods of using slot machines become reality.

Some gamblers use old-fashioned "hard currency," meaning coins or metal tokens, while others use "soft currency," meaning bills or $1, $5, $10 or higher, or slips of paper or tickets spit out to winners by some slot machines.

There is also TITO wagering -- ticket in, ticket out -- where a gambler gets a slip of paper spit out by one slot machine, containing how much he or she has won, and then feeds the ticket in another machine to gamble.

There is also "cashless wagering," where a card is bought for a certain amount, say $100. A player keeps playing, with the win or loss recorded electronically on the card, until he's blown the entire $100 or else cashes out with the amount of winnings recorded on the card.

The only action the board took yesterday, besides getting a group picture taken, was to direct state police to do complete background checks on all their staff members.

The board also directed that state police do background investigations into any company or individuals that want to manufacture or distribute slot machines to the state's 14 casinos.