Ohio trains agents to catch casino cheaters

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Ohio is ready to do battle with the con artists expected to arrive with the opening of the state's first casinos next month.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission has assigned 13 state investigators full time to the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, scheduled to open May 14, and similar contingents at casinos opening later in Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Agents have completed a 40-hour course that covers the rules for games such as poker or craps as well as ruses that cheats are likely to try.

"Every organized team that hits every jurisdiction will be coming to Ohio in some fashion," George Joseph, a veteran Las Vegas-based casino security consultant, told the Plain Dealer for a story Sunday (http://bit.ly/HNQwhi). "Your money's green in Ohio. They'll be coming that way."

The agents have sole jurisdiction on the gaming floor, though casino-hired security will handle routine matters, said Matt Schuler, the commission's executive director.

Three or four armed agents, plus a supervisor, will be on duty at all times, but they may be hard to single out.. Agents will keep guns concealed and usually dress in plain clothes, and display badges only to quell problems.

The Horseshoe will average 13,000 visitors and more than $800,000 in revenue a day, according to estimates from Rock Ohio Caesars, the joint venture that developed the Horseshoe.

The first criminals to surface will likely include drug dealers and others seeking to launder money at busy slot machines and gaming tables, Joseph said. He also anticipates professional gambling scam artists.

Scams vary from plucking cash vouchers left protruding from slot machines to surreptitiously marking cards to sliding, rather than rolling, dice, Joseph said.

Tech-savvy cheaters sometimes use hidden cameras capable of detecting clear substances they smear on playing cards. Others attach an electronic device to slot machines that fools a bill reader into thinking currency has been inserted, Joseph said.

The four-story casino in the old Higbee department store building will also have more than 1,000 surveillance cameras watching gamblers, as well as employees who might be tempted to skim cash.

Most of the 600 dealers are local and new to the profession, but they have trained for months to detect cheaters. And they will get back-up from supervisors and internal security.

"It's not nearly as dramatic as TV or the movies," Brad Hirsch, Horseshoe vice president and assistant general manager, said of casino scams. "That doesn't mean we should ignore it or not make it a priority."

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com