Caught Cheating: How Casinos Catch Thieves

Catching thieves in casinos is almost as much about prevention as it is about apprehending after the fact. Casino security involves more technology to catch a cheater before they even get out of their car in the parking lot. 

How Casinos Catch Thieves

Casino Security Secrets

That’s right! Thanks to advances in tech, casinos can screen patrons before they walk through the doors onto the playing floor. Let’s look at some of the casino security measures in place today.

Tag, You’re It

If you roll up to a casino in your own vehicle and you already have a rap sheet, casino security will know. Many resorts use license plate number recognition software to run your tags and see if you have any priors on your record. If so, it may mean you’re not permitted to enter, or you’re watched more closely once inside. You could try to outsmart the system with fake or stolen plates, but the software recognizes fakes, and stolen plates may have already been reported.

Facial Recognition Software

Let’s say your mom drops you off at the casino, and her car tags pull up clean. As a result, you’re good to get inside the casino and see if you can successfully cheat a few games. If you’ve even been arrested or kicked out of a casino before, one of the thousands of high-definition cameras in the casino will know. Your face is photographed when you enter the casino, and the picture is compared to a database of known criminals or patrons on a “watch list” of sorts. If your face matches any in the database, you can expect to be escorted out of the building to call your mom to pick you up before she’s had time to leave the parking lot.

No One Looks Good in High-Def

Speaking of the cameras, there are thousands in every casino. They monitor the comings and goings of the floor and, yes, they can even zoom in on a player’s cards. The cameras aren’t just high-definition, either. Some are infrared, and some are linked to powerful software to help catch a cheater in the act.

Infrared Cameras

While casinos can’t read your mind to determine when and how you’re going to cheat, they can use infrared cameras to get an idea. Infrared can detect heat, so if a camera detects that a player’s temperature is abnormally high, it could be a sign of a cheat. 

NORA (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness)

NORA is not only used by casinos, but by homeland security as well. It’s software that allows security to make comparisons between people in the casino. If there’s suspicion that a dealer is giving a patron an unfair advantage, NORA can analyze database info to see if there are any connections between the two. NORA mines shared cell phone data, email history, and can see if the suspected cheaters have a shared address.


This software is designed to rate players and determine if they have an unfair advantage over others. Unfortunately, TableEye21 is not trying to award the best players; it’s trying to throw out players whose skills are usually too good to be true (i.e. cheaters).

Angel Eye

You’ve heard of cheaters marking cards, but did you know casinos’ cards have their own markings as well? They do, and Angel Eye software can read the cards in the dealer box to see what’s coming up next. If Angel Eye detects a marking that isn’t the casino’s, or if casino markings are missing from cards in the box, security is alerted and attempt to identify the cheat at the table.

Undercover Agents

It should be no surprise that there are undercover security agents on the floor in a casino. Additionally, be mindful that the dealers, a “floor person,” and a pit manager are all on alert for potential misdeeds happening on the floor. 

Catching Monopoly Money

If a thief does manage to use counterfeit money while gambling, there are machines in the casino that sift real money from fake. With all the cameras on site, security can often trace the transaction back to a certain point in the day, helping them identify potential suspects.

Who’s Stealing From Casinos?

No, it’s not Danny Ocean, Rusty Ryan, or Linus Caldwell. The Gaming Control Board reports that casino security isn’t just catching guests who cheat, but dealers as well. Generally, the types of cheaters could be divided into three categories:

Inside jobs - employees working alone, or with patrons

Sticky-fingered bandits - patrons stealing chips

Table game cheaters - patrons cheating at play

Gaming Control Board’s data collected on cheaters states that 250 - 500 employees are arrested per year for cheating or theft. This estimate equates to 25% of all arrests made by the Gaming Control Board.

23% of those 250 - 500 people are management

27% of those 250 - 500 people are table workers

18% of those 250 - 500 people are money handlers

3% of those 250 - 500 people are security

With a casino’s ability to arrest someone within minutes of identifying them as a thief, why do people take the risk? Whether employee or patron, sometimes issues such as kleptomania, narcissism, or borderline personality disorder motivating factors. Stealing may be a compulsion, or a desperate attempt to get out of financial problems.

How Do People Steal From Casinos?

With thousands of cameras and sophisticated software to prevent cheating at casinos, how do people attempt to cheat? Furthermore, how does anyone ever get away with it? 

Card Marking

It’s common to see casino patrons wearing glasses inside, whether prescription or not. Some glasses, however, may actually be a means of cheating. Players can inconspicuously mark cards with ink that is only visible while wearing certain specs. 

Sleight of Hand

Magicians aren’t the only people manipulating cards on the Vegas strip. Some gamblers have mastered sleight of hand in order to sneak their own cards or chips into play or snatch them from others at the table. It isn’t uncommon for someone to take advantage of a diversion at a table and slip a chip off an opponent’s stack. 

Aw, Crap!

Switching dice at table games such as craps is another way someone can manipulate the gamble in their favor. If a player can palm the real dice offered by the casino and instead roll their own “crooked dice,” they can win without anyone else at the table being aware of the offense. 

How Dealers Are Prevented From Stealing

In addition to surveillance, chip exchanges are monitored at casinos. This means a dealer would need supervisor approval to cash out chips; the cashout would need to be explained depending on the sum.

Dealers and their supervisors count the chips at the table every hour to ensure they’re all accounted for. If the value of chips at the table has changed without explanation (a patron win, for example), the loss would be investigated. This prevents a dealer from pocketing chips in large sums in an attempt to cash them out later.

Additionally, dealers must show “clear hands” when leaving a table. To show no chips are hidden in their shirt sleeves, a dealer has to clap their hands, and show palms up/down to the camera.

Spotting a Cheater

If a patron wins big at a game, whether at a table or a slot machine, casino security will literally rewind and review the plays on the spot. The player’s every move will be scrutinized to ensure it was a fair game, with no wrongdoing by players or dealers in an effort to win. This doesn’t mean that every big winner becomes a target of suspicion, though. It just means due diligence will be performed to ensure a cheater isn’t walking away from the table.

If you get good at playing games like poker, you’re probably good at reading people. Understanding what’s motivating your opponents is an integral part of the game. Casino security is also looking for signs that players are up to no good, which could include the following:

Seating Arrangements

While it’s not a crime to sit close to your friend when gambling, it can be a tell when a couple of men sit right next to each other at an open table. When there’s room to spread out, men usually do. If they choose not to, casino security sees it as a tell that mischief might be underway. Often, when security sees men sitting close, they keep an eye on them to prevent them from being able to exchange cards, allowing one of them to create a winning hand. Socially, it’s more common to see women sitting close together, regardless of how many seats are open. As a result, it’s isn’t seen as a red flag.

Big Jumps in Bets

Suddenly placing a huge bet might be a sign of a random good hand or a sign of a cheat. If a patron has been playing it safe with modest bets and then gets wild, it could mean they’ve been strategically cheating and think it’s finally going to pay off big. Dealers may inconspicuously signal to a supervisor that a patron is suddenly getting gutsy, and security will take an interest in the situation to monitor for signs of cheating.


In traffic, rubbernecking refers to turning your head to check out the accident or disruption on the side of the road. In a casino, it means a patron isn’t paying much attention to their game and is instead, keeping an eye out for security. A rubbernecker at a table or a slot machine is a dead giveaway that someone is up to something, and is looking out for security while doing so.

Of course, there is a lot more that goes into the security of casinos, but they can’t give away all their secrets. It’s a safe bet, though, that you won’t be able to walk away with $160 million like the crew from Ocean’s 11

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