Ohio Roulette Scam Tied to New York Gambling Ring

4 min read

George Clooney and Brad Pitt and their nine cohorts might have gotten away with millions in Vegas but what kind of chances would they have had in Ohio? Very little if you were to ask a group of individuals who have recently been tied to a string of roulette scams in the state. This group of at least 13 gamblers from New York City and its surrounding area has been scamming roulette tables in four Ohio casinos over the past year. Now, it looks like their streak of swindled luck has finally run its course.

Ocean’s 70

Karen Huey, the director of enforcement for the Ohio Casino Control Commission says that this particular group of New York City scammers is very organized and consists of about 70 people. “They travel the country. They’ve been identified in 18 states running this scam,” said Huey. While every casino is likely to have measures in place to prevent and uncover cheaters, such a large group would definitely be hard to pin down.

Arrests Were Made But…

So far, the accused members of this group have hailed from New York including the Bronx and a few from New Jersey. Many were either from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. Currently there are four men awaiting sentencing in a Cincinnati court. Additionally, there are several from the scam ring who have outstanding arrest warrants but did not appear on the date of their hearings.

The ring began its work in Toledo at the Hollywood Casino. Along the way, the Horseshoe Casinos in Cleveland and Cincinnati and the Hollywood Casino in Columbus were hit during the scam. At the Toledo location for the Hollywood Casino, six people were arrested but five never showed up to court. Which poses the question: should it really come as a surprise that the cheaters were none too eager to show up for court on arrest charges?

Color-Up Cover Up

The method this group of cheaters used across Ohio is known as the “color-up” scam. During live roulette games, every player is given chips of a different color instead of the traditional casino chips. This happens because with a large number of players at each table all with their own types of bets, it would be nearly impossible for a dealer to keep track of everything. Those color chips instead represent the dollar value which were determined when the player first purchased them.

The scam begins when one player in a group buys chips in one dollar denominations. After playing they will cash out but not before taking some of the chips that were meant to be given back to the dealer. The player then leaves to a discreet part of the casino with no surveillance, usually a bathroom, and hands the chips off to a partner. The partner then goes back to the roulette table and buys chips for a higher dollar amount and arranges to receive the same color as the one their partner just used. After a few rounds, the player will then cash out and have those one dollar chips now be valued for the higher amount.

Team Effort

This large group of scammers likely took full advantage of the color-up method. With more players working the same angle, it becomes easier to buy cheap chips and then arrange for the right colors to reach the right hands. A team has the ability to earn a few thousand dollars in a matter of hours with the scheme. In fact, two of the scammers at Columbus’ Hollywood Casino would have made out with $2,700 if they hadn’t been stopped and ran out. These guys are really good at running away, aren’t they?

Since land gambling was legalized in Ohio there have been 101 documented cases of cheating according to Huey. Because Cleveland’s Horeshoe Casino gets the most people in the state, a majority of the cheating cases have originated from there.

But for John Barron, the chief legal counsel for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, this ring of color-up scammers is in for a rough ride. “These are professional cheaters who threaten the integrity of gaming in Ohio,” said Barron. He says the state of Ohio will aggressively prosecute the cases to make an example out of the cheaters.

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