Casino Scam Alert: Gaming Regulators Issue Warning

Published: August 9, 2023, 08:25h. 

Last updated: August 9, 2023, 08:25h.

Both the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) recently issued strong warnings to casinos regarding an ongoing scam targeting casino employees.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Kirk Hendrick, pictured above. The board warned casinos about a theft scam. (Image: The Nevada Independent)

The fraudulent scheme revolves around targeted calls to cash cage employees, where the caller pretends to be a high-ranking casino executive and instructs the employee to transfer money from the casino to another undisclosed location.

The caller uses the threat of “negative consequences” as leverage to ensure compliance with their instructions.

According to the NGCB statement from July 7, when an employee hesitates or resists, the subjects apply pressure by emphasizing the urgent nature of the offsite payment. They also hint at the possibility of an employee bonus to compensate for the unconventional task.

Following the initial call, the fraudsters send a confirming text message to the targeted employee’s cell phone.

Cashiers, supervisors, managers, as well as surveillance, security, and gaming pit personnel, are among the most vulnerable to this scheme, as identified by the NGCB.

The board urges casinos to educate at-risk employees about the scam and take measures to prevent its success.

The NGCB recognized the sophistication of the cage scam and its surprisingly effective track record in defrauding casinos.

Recent Arrests

Authorities made significant developments in two recent incidents where this fraudulent scheme was employed.

In one instance, Erik Gutierrez, 23, was charged with theft exceeding $100,000 after posing as the owner of a prominent Las Vegas casino-hotel, gaming authorities confirmed.

Gutierrez contacted a cage supervisor at Circa Hotel & Casino and demanded funds for the purchase of fire prevention devices and an emergency payment to the fire department.

The cage supervisor complied by transporting the cash to an off-site location on multiple occasions, believing the recipient to be an attorney representing the hotel-casino.

Authorities were able to identify Gutierrez as the suspect, leading to a search of his residence, where they found a substantial amount of cash bundle with “Circa” written on it. According to Las Vegas TV station KLAS, approximately $850,000 has been recovered so far, out of an estimated $1,170,000 stolen.

Moreover, on July 30, Danika Young, a 38-year-old cash cage supervisor at Four Winds Hartford Casino in Michigan, allegedly embezzled $700,000 from the establishment.

Young received a call instructing her to bring the money to a specific location in Gary, Indiana. She complied and was subsequently charged with employee embezzlement exceeding $100,000, as reported by Michigan TV station WOOD. The missing funds have yet to be recovered.

Tribal Gaming Cautioned

The NIGC released a statement on July 13 highlighting the prevalence of this scam in both commercial and tribal gaming operations, resulting in significant financial losses.

With losses reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, the NIGC urges tribal officials to ensure that employees who have direct access to cash assets are aware of the scam and know how to respond in such situations.

Implications of Artificial Intelligence

The advancement of technology, including artificial intelligence, presents an increased risk for such fraudulent activities.

The NGCB warned licensees that sophisticated technologies like artificial intelligence may enhance the effectiveness of scams of this nature. Consequently, heightened security measures must be implemented to protect employee information and casino assets.

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