Casino Crime Growing Up

De Rong Shang’s sentencing today  to six years in prison for masterminding a credit fraud that took Station Casinos for more than $1 million says a lot about “real” vs. “reel” casino crime.

In movies and on TV, casino crime is dramatic: a sleight-of-hand artist introducing loaded dice into a crap game, a stickup artist robbing a cashier’s cage. There’s plenty of crime like that in casinos—as I write this, yet another chip thief is on the loose—but those kinds of crimes, while they can add up, are penny ante compared to the damage a determined conman can do.

In this case, Shang enlisted confederates to open bank accounts which he funded. He then had them apply for casino credit, close their accounts, and return the money to him, and to funnel the chips “bought” with their credit back to Shang.

That might seem a little more cerebral than the usual climactic movie action sequence, where Lawrence Fishburne barrels down the casino floor in pursuit of a cowboy hat-wearing Kevin Spacey. At the end of the day, criminals know that there’s a lot of money for casinos, but as strong-arm crimes and technologically-sophisticated cheating operations get more difficult to pull off, these kinds of thefts, which have more in common with white collar crime than traditional casino crime, are going to become more common.

That’s why modern-day casino security and surveillance has to be vigilant against a variety of threats, from old-fashioned pickpockets and robberies to sophisticated credit scams. As long as casinos remain places where the money is, they’re going to attract their share of criminal activity.