Slot cheats and telepathy

State gaming police recently busted up a Nevada slot cheating team. From the LVRJ:

In 1979, Michael Joseph Balsamo was arrested on charges of cheating at gambling. Since then, he has racked up 25 investigations and six convictions and has been listed in Nevada’s Black Book of Excluded Persons.

Add another charge to the list.

Now 47, Balsamo has been indicted by a grand jury on several counts of manufacturing and possessing a cheating device.

This time, gaming enforcement officials allege, he had some help from his family, working with his wife, stepson and mother-in-law to cheat slot machines in Clark County

His wife, Stephanie, 45, mother-in-law, Lavonna Wallace, 68, and stepson, Derrick Bowman, 24, were booked into the Clark County Detention Center this month on the charges.

Jerry Markling, chief of enforcement for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said gaming investigators, with Las Vegas police, have been investigating Michael Balsamo and his group for more than a year.

Investigators think the suspects used a “light optic” device to trick slot machines into paying more coins than they should when players win. — News – Investigators say they’ve broken slot cheating ring that was family affair

While this story is notable in and of itself, I’ve posted it because your humble correspondent himself was quoted. People who know me won’t be too surprised:

Dave Schwartz, director of the Center for Gambling Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said slot cheating has advanced from the days when cheaters, known as “sluggers,” would use yo-yo coins with a string on them to keep playing.

Schwartz said many cheaters buy slot machines or attend gaming conventions for research. He said slot cheaters respond to new technology by being more creative. He said that even if every casino puts in the newest technology, criminals still will try to use counterfeit money or tickets to cheat the machines.

“Until they develop slot machines that work purely in mental thought — telepathy — they won’t be able to stop all of the cheating,” he said. “Even then, I’m sure (criminals would) find a way to cheat.”

The idea of telepathic slot machines sounds pretty goofy, I know, but I’ve been reading a bit about developing technologies, particularly the GRIN (genetics, robotics, information tech, and nanotechnology) arc. It’s entirely possible that computers will begin to interact with people by reading eye movements and other things in ways that will seem telepathic.

What I was trying to say was that, as long as there is some kind of physical interface, be it coin, cash, or ticket, there is a potential for cheating. I don’t think you will find any casino security expert (or for that matter anyone who’s ever been inside a casino) that will disagree.

For what I’m talking about–the currency/machine interface–a more apt scenario might have been biometrics. Let’s say that, instead of cash or tickets, you have a smart card with all of your financial info on it. To use it, you don’t use a password but your own biometric data–let’s say a retinal scan. It’d seem pretty hard to spoof (well, unless you’ve seen spy movies), but slot cheats would find a way, probably five minutes after the first machines started their 90-day live trial.

Another note–I don’t believe I said the cheaters were called “sluggers,” but that they used low-tech methods like fake coins (slugs) or yo-yos. I’ve got to admit that if I was still working casino security, it would be fun to walk up to a suspected slot cheat and say, “Drop the fiber optic tool, slugger!”

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