Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Casino Cheating Scandal Deepens

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This installment of the Tribes In The Media is an article in The Day newspaper of New London and covers a table games scandal that has resulted in losses for Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun:

Craps scandal deepens at area casinos
Shot takers paying off dealers who take bad bets at the table
By Karen Florin
The Day
September 6, 2008

When someone walked up to a craps table at Foxwoods Resort Casino or Mohegan Sun and said “strawberry daiquiri” or “hot chocolate,” the game was on.

The cheating game, according to police.

State police this week arrested the alleged ringleader of a scam in which dealers paid players for late bets and later collected payment for the favors.

Richard S. Taylor, 42, of Memphis, Tenn., was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit cheating at gambling, cheating at gambling and first-degree larceny. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond. A dozen more arrests are expected.

The State Police Casino Unit began investigating in December 2007 after a floor person at Foxwoods notified a manager that a craps dealer was cheating. They initially charged Taylor and dealer Mattie Tarlton. They now say the scheme has widened to include 13 people and that the region's two casinos lost $69,965.

In craps, a fast-moving dice game, players place their chips on certain parts of the table to indicate how they want to bet. Players can also call out their bets to the dealers before the dice land. If the player makes a bet too late, the dealer is supposed to reject it by indicating “no bet.”

In casino lingo, those who cheat at craps by placing bets after the dice have been rolled are called “shot takers.” Police said they interviewed several dealers who admitted to paying the “shot takers” for bad bets, then meeting up with them later to collect payment. Some of the dealers said the scam went on for years.

Taylor recruited dealers and players to participate in the scheme and even colluded with a Foxwoods employee who scheduled craps dealers to ensure that friendly dealers would be working when his crew arrived at a table, according to a lengthy arrest warrant affidavit prepared by state police detective Richard Bedard.

Taylor instructed the dealers that the cheating players would use the code words “strawberry daiquiri” or “hot chocolate” when they approached the table.

The dealers told the detective that Taylor, who is also known as “Mr. Casino,” “Mr. C,” “Shorty” and “Shaft,” was a big tipper who would often place bets “for the dealer” along with his own bets. They said he bragged about cheating at casinos around the country and said he and another man, known as “Big Al,” had “pulled down $110,000” in Las Vegas.

”Mr. C. talked about how they were going to make a movie of them ripping off casinos,” one dealer told the detective.

The dealers described meeting up with Taylor at local hotels and restaurants to collect cash payoffs. Two of the Foxwoods employees said he gave them $1,000 gaming chips from Mohegan Sun, which they immediately cashed in.

Taylor was arrested at New London Superior Court Thursday when he appeared for the initial cheating case. Standing outside the courthouse before he was taken into custody, he denied wrongdoing and said the casino officials are suspicious of him because he always places bets for the dealers. Table games players often tip dealers by placing chips beside their own bets and declaring that they are betting for the dealers.

Taylor said he always calls his bets and that craps is a verbal game. When police interviewed Taylor following his January arrest, he denied running a cheating crew and paying off dealers.

”The bet is all up to the dealer/employee at the table,” he said. “If they think it's a late bet, they don't accept (the) bet. It's all on them.”

Taylor is married with three children and had worked as a truck driver until he suffered a disabling injury, according to his attorney, Martin W. Schoepfer. The attorney argued for a lower bond at Taylor's arraignment, but Judge Susan B. Handy, who signed the arrest warrants in the case, said Taylor appears to be the person most responsible in “an elaborate, long-term scheme to defraud the casinos.”