COLUMBUS, Ohio — Members of a Bronx, N.Y., crime ring are accused of hitting all four Ohio casinos in the past year, spinning a scam on the roulette wheel.
So far, there have been 13 arrests, but several people charged with cheating the casino did not show up for their court hearings. Four men are scheduled to be sentenced in a Cincinnati court today. Arrest warrants have been issued for those who fled.
“This is a very organized group of about 70 people. They travel the country. They’ve been identified in 18 states running this scam,” Karen Huey, director of enforcement, said during a meeting of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the state agency that regulates casinos.
In gambling parlance, it’s known as a “color-up scam,” so called because it involves color chips used on the roulette table. Roulette players get in the game by buying “non-value” chips in one of 6 or 7 colors, setting the value of the chip themselves based on the amount they want to bet.
Huey said a scammer typically buy chips for $1 at the table, then secretly passes them off to another person they’re working with — usually in the restroom, the only place in casinos where there are no surveillance cameras. The chips aren’t supposed to leave the table, so that the dealer can keep track of the paid value.
The second player then approaches the table and uses the secret supply of chips as $25 bets. After playing a few minutes, he cashes out his chips, realizing a 25-to-1 gain. The scam often nets $1,000 to $2,000 per table over the course of an hour or less. Two men who hit the Hollywood Casino Columbus ran out when they were confronted, leaving what would have been $2,700 in illicit winnings on the table.
The people arrested so far have all been from the Bronx, other parts of New York, or New Jersey. Most are originally from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The Hollywood Casino in Toledo was the first to be hit last year. Six people were arrested, five of whom failed to appear in court. The other three casinos have been hit since.
John Barron, the commission’s chief legal counsel, said the state is aggressively seeking prosecution in these cases to set an example.
“These are professional cheaters who threaten the integrity of gaming in Ohio,” he said.