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Vegas Cheat Erodes Public Confidence in Slot Machines

15 February 2000

In spite of all the security precautions taken by casinos to ensure the integrity of their games, in spite of the video surveillance cameras that monitor every inch of the gaming floors, in spite of the personnel that scrutinize everyone and everything that goes on, somebody found a way to beat the system.

In November 1998, a 57-year-old Las Vegas man and three of his cohorts pled guilty in a $6 million slot machine cheating case. Apparently they had discovered a way to electronically manipulate the computer chips that govern slot machines...the chips that guarantee the random nature of play of the machines and preserve the integrity of the games.

The scheme, it has been discovered, was launched by the group in April of 1995. The group has been linked to 10 fraudulent jackpots, all of which were hit at Las Vegas casinos. They were working on hitting the Nevada Megabucks jackpot last June, which was $17 million at the time, when the ringleader was arrested.

There are several puzzling aspects to this case, not the least of which is how they were able to operate in full view of security cameras and personnel. Apparently the leader of the gang had the capability of opening up machines, then used a computer device to alter the random number generator. He worked while shielded by lookouts and blockers. After he fixed the machine he'd leave. Another member of the gang sat down and hit the jackpot. Did you ever think such flagrant criminal behavior was possible in a casino?

Here's the topper: The mastermind of the operation, a fellow named Dennis Nikrasch, who legally changed his name to Dennis McAndrew, is no newcomer to casino fraud! Back in 1986, McAndrew was convicted for being part of a slot machine cheating ring that illegally won $10 million at Las Vegas casinos. He was sentenced to prison and released on parole in January of 1991.

He was convicted the first time for rigging mechanical reel slots in the late 1970s. The slot machines of the 90s are computer marvels compared to their older cousins, yet McAndrew found a way to beat them, too, then had the intestinal fortitude to put his knowledge to work again and rake in millions.

The F.B.I. is credited for nailing McAndrew and his gang a second time. Now law enforcement and gaming officials are so serious about finding out just how he pulled of the scheme that they're willing to give him a reduced sentence of 7 1/2 years or even less if he'll just tell his secrets. Apparently he's willing to do just that.

The very fact he was a convicted felon and already in Las Vegas' infamous "black book" made his second attack on the casinos all the more improbable. Yet he still managed to get on the casino floors, rig machines, and then delight in the fruits of his labors to the tune of untold millions of dollars of illegally gotten gains.

Officials are concerned that he may have given his secrets to others, but you can bet his knowledge was the guarded secret of his very own band of thieves. Why would they want to share the technology with others? How he did it is of vital interest to the gaming industry so that they may take precautions to prevent it from happening again.

McAndrew apparently did tell authorities that there may be others engaging in similar activity, which may account for the fact the gaming industry loses an estimated $40 million a year to slot cheats, a staggering figure.

The news of the discovery of the cheating ring should come as disturbing news to slot players. How could such a serious breach of security have taken place over an extended period of time? The majority of us believed the machines were tamper proof only to discover they're not. What's more, the exact scope of the fraud may be a mystery that only Dennis McAndrew may shed light on.

Rather than look upon McAndrew as a kind of casino "Robin Hood" and regard him as a hero, let's take him for what he really is: A crook. Casinos have zero toleration for cheats at their gaming tables. Now that slot machines have been revealed as vulnerable to unscrupulous people, it is up to the gaming industry to restore that lost credibility.

The fact that McAndrew was apparently able to open up slot machines so easily indicates to me that access methods need to be tightened up. Perhaps once he starts talking to authorities, the slot machine vulnerabilities that McAndrew was able to take advantage of will be eliminated by the manufacturers and casino operators.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp