An alleged $30 million dollar-plus cheating scam at Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia has left the casino dodging gamblers and investors who have some understandable questions. After the story broke, casino spokesperson Gary O’Neill complained that he’d been on the phone since dawn, and “I’ve been saying the same thing…I’m not really in a position to make any further statements.”
The story goes back to an exclusive report on Thursday by Mark Buttler in Australia’s Herald Sun, who reported that $32 million had been stolen from the casino in a high-tech scheme which involved infiltrating the casino’s own security system.
According to Buttler’s anonymous sources, a player in cahoots with at least one employee won $32 million in eight hands of cards. Yeah, that’s right. Cards. Buttler’s sources were so good that they didn’t even know what game was being played.
Possibly by using an earpiece or another device, the big player picked up signals from the casino’s security system that gave him a peek at cards he shouldn’t have seen.
The casino’s reaction? They fired the guy as a customer. That’s right. He got kicked out of his high roller suite in the dead of night and his license to play was revoked, so that he isn’t allowed back on the premises any time soon.
Crown Casino also allegedly fired the VIP host who put the unnamed player in a fancy high roller suite in the first place.
But they didn’t file a formal complaint with the police, and they haven’t filed a disclosure to the company’s investors.
So you’re a huge corporation cheated of $32, $33, or even $34 million dollars (reports vary), and you’re all, like, “whatev.”
No. The story as reported in the Herald Sun couldn’t have happened that way. There are betting limits in place that prevent anyone from winning enough to hit $32 million dollars and then making a break for the door.
The betting limit at Crown Casino is reportedly at most $300,000 a hand and usually much less. So it’s always possible that the report just gathered a few zeroes along the way to make it more colorful.
In an earlier life, I played on a professional blackjack team. My first reaction to the story was exactly this — that somebody added a few zeroes to make a better story for Mr. Buttler. If someone cheats you out of $30 million dollars, you’re going to get the police and everybody else involved to get it back.
But if they win $30,000 by perfectly legal means, you kick them out of the casino, tell them that they’re never coming back, and grumble about it for a bit.
As a blackjack player, I was on the other end of that a few times. Nobody’s getting arrested because it isn’t a crime to use your head to win. But the casino is going to pick up its toys and refuse to play with you any more. And people who don’t know beans about gambling are going to presume that you somehow did something wrong to get kicked out.
I further speculated that if over $30 million had vanished, it sure didn’t go to the big player. Depending on the size of the casino, you get barred well before you reach a $100,000 win — much less a $32 million win.
Once I was actually barred from play before I even finished placing a one hundred dollar bet.
A casino is not there to gamble. It’s a business, and it’s there to encourage good customers (losers) and discourage the bad ones.
The Crown Casino didn’t lose $30 million and then shrug their shoulders, refusing to take any other action besides revoking somebody’s all-expenses-paid family vacation.
Nope. It had to be other players who were cheated, and Iain Thomson for UK’s The Register explained how it probably went down.
The team recruited a well-known VIP player — someone with a history at the Crown Casino who could wangle an invitation to stay in the high-roller suites while visiting Melbourne. Once he was placed in a $30,000 a night villa, it was possible for him to join a high-stakes poker game in a private suite which was being monitored by the casino’s CCTV. He then used his knowledge of what other player held to win the money as swiftly as possible and leave the game.
Crown Casino lost nothing in that game. Heck, they presumably made money on the guy — the same time charge that they assess every other poker player who sits in a game.
And that’s why they can shrug their shoulders and say, in essence, “Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles.”
Because it was (probably) a private game, the details are still scanty. But cashing out even $10,000 in chips is a long, drawn-out hassle in the United States, so any gamblers reading the story might have been tempted to buy a plane ticket for Australia. Can you really cash out $32 million after eight hands and just stroll away?
Well, even that part of the story may be bogus. A couple of reports said that the game may have been a tournament rather than a cash game.
In other words, the team may have gotten away with $32 million in tournament chips.
As Ocean’s 11 style heists go, the Crown Casino cheating scam may have been a complete bust.
Note: This story is developing, and if you have any insights or information about what really happened at the Crown Casino, please get in touch with me.