Casino Scamming in Asia

Casino Scamming in Asia

Gambling in Asia has reached new heights. Asian casinos are at the very top of the gambling revenue ladder. They attract the wealthiest players and the most sophisticated criminals.

Asian casinos: Gambling mecca of the world

The haute couture of casino architecture and luxury can be found in Asian casinos. Billions of dollars pass through these casinos. The answer to this multi-billion-dollar industry is the building of billion-dollar casino resorts.  A casino building boom is evident throughout Asia, from the City of Macau in southern China to Manila Bay to Singapore. Gambling in Asia has left America in the dust. The long term economic crisis in the U.S. has resulted in a struggling gambling industry in Nevada. Macau alone has annual revenue that is five times that of Las Vegas. A wealth of rich gamblers from mainland China fuels the lucrative casino industry in Asia. Billions of dollars in revenue attract the world’s most successful casino scammers. Asia’s luxury casinos are the top-tier in the constant battle between casinos and global cheats.

High-tech security vs. high-tech scammers

A fortune has been poured into security surveillance in Asian casinos. Meanwhile, the best cheats in the world are technologically keeping pace. According to security expert Sal Piacente, a multi-million dollar cutter scam was successfully executed in the Philippines by a gang of technology-savvy thieves. The scam consisted of a camera up a gang member’s sleeve, recording a deck of cards as they were cut. Baccarat was the game being played in Paranaque City in May 2011, but it may just as easily have been blackjack. The card order was digitally sent to another gangster, who studied the cards, and then returned to the table awhile later as that deck was put into play. 

Piacente, a 47-year-old from Brooklyn, told the AFP that the sophistication of scams in Asia is at a much higher level than those carried out in America. He was one of the security consultants who were present at the Global Gaming Expo Asia in Macau. Security surveillance is big business. The new and extravagant Asian casinos are equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance technology. As the cutter scam shows, international thieves are able to access and utilize high-tech equipment to counter the casino surveillance systems.

The Ponte 16 casino in Macau is owned by Success Universe Group. The deputy chairman of that corporation, Hoffman Ma, has recently commented that American manufacturers of anti-fraud systems are producing equipment specifically for the Asian casino market. He asserted that Asia’s surveillance system is comprised of cutting-edge technology, which he states is essential in the high-traffic gambling industry.

Due to the American economy, and specifically as a result of the downturn in 2008, Nevada casinos are having a difficult time maintaining a technologically current surveillance system.  Douglas Florence, an executive at the Canadian security camera company Avigilon, commented on the state of security surveillance in Nevada casinos. He recently implied that the surveillance system is archaic, and stated further that unclear video on VHS tapes comprise the surveillance technology of many Las Vegas casinos. In comparing Asian casinos, Florence said that the casinos of Asia have used digital equipment since they opened their doors. Security software is produced by enterprises such as Cheeteye, a South African company. The software that they offer to casinos identifies suspicious behavior patterns, garnered from multi-sourced data. The average wager increase of particular players is one of the patterns detected by the Cheeteye software. Avigilon and Cheeteye have partnered to present a more holistic approach to casinos. Graeme Powell, a representative of Cheeteye, said that in the last couple of years, Cheeteye’s revenue had doubled. He commented that tech-savvy, young casino managers were increasingly opting to install the advanced software system.  

View of the scamming industry from the eyes of a security expert

Sal Piacente is the president of UniverSal Game Protection. At the Global Gaming Expo in Macau, companies exhibited the most advanced slot machines and video gambling innovations. In contrast, Piacente’s booth contained a bag of tricks and a baccarat table. He demonstrated the usual tools of a cheat’s trade: Loaded dice, split chips and gold rings that reflect the cards. He has perfected some of the talents of scammers: Sleight of hand, such as false shuffles, second deals and card palming. Piacente’s talents include a photographic memory for a deck of cards. He has devoted his life to perfecting these skills, but informs his casino clients that as good as he is, the scammers are better, faster and smarter.  He comments that in Asia, where there are mega millions at the gambling tables and surveillance is excellently trained, in order for a cheat to work his trade he has to be the best in the world.

Piacente compared his practice routine with that of a casino crook: Piacente spends hundreds of hours on thousands of moves; the cheat spends thousands of hours perfecting one move. He added that the goal of the amateur is to be able to get it right, while the goal of a professional is to practice until he never gets it wrong. As to the cutter scam in Paranaque City, that scam appears to have reached a just conclusion. It took a few months for law enforcement officers to catch up with the criminals. In September several suspects were arrested. As for the alleged ringleader, Loo Choon Beng, a lawyer from Singapore, it has been reported that he was discovered in a Chinese hotel room in August 2011, dead. 

Crime doesn’t pay, but billions of dollars are a magnet that many casino scammers just cannot resist.