Category Archives: Gambling

11 Casino Dice Security Measures to Keep Players From Cheating

About 20 minutes after dice were invented, fashioned from the ankle bones of hooved animals, somebody cheated using dice.

The tradition of trying to swindle casinos continues to this day, so casinos take extraordinary measures to prevent players from cheating, especially at the craps table.

Because players handle and shoot the dice, craps is the only casino game where patrons have complete control over the outcome of a wager. In other cases, it’s a machine or wheel or dealer. Dice, then, are an easy target for cheaters.

Here are 11 hastily slapped-together dice security measures casinos take to ensure players don’t cheat and every roll is random.

1. Serial Numbers

Swapping out legitimate dice with weighted or “loaded” dice is a time-honored tradition in Las Vegas casinos. To avoid “crooked” dice entering a game, casino dice have serial numbers. Typically, casino dice come in packs of five, wrapped in gold foil, each with matching serial numbers. If a casino staffer sees two dice in play with two different serial numbers, the cheater’s jig is up.

Dice serial number

Casino dice come in groups of five, much like Hugh Hefner.

2. Sharp Corners

The next time you use dice on a board game at home, take note of the corners. Most dice outside casinos have rounded corners, but in casinos, they’re sharp. Rounded corners cause rolls that aren’t truly random, and exaggerate any bias in the dice. Sharp corners “grab” the felt and assure rolls are random and keep the odds the way casinos like them, in their favor.

Dice square corners

Curved corner, amateur hour. Sharp corner, all business.

3. Glow Spots

Some casinos use dice that have spots, also called “pips,” filled with special epoxy that changes color under U.V. light. Floor managers can quickly tell if dice are legit using a simple black light.

Dice glow spot

Shout-out to Bruce Leroy.

4. Translucency

Before the advent of plastics, it was difficult to tell if dice were weighted, or “gaffed.” Since the 1950s, dice have been made of cellulose acetate, making them translucent. Being able to see inside a die makes it much easier to see if anyone’s mucked with it.

Dice key letter spot

We’ll get to the “K” in a minute. Always in such a rush.

5. Key Letter Spot

This is one of our favorite casino dice “secrets,” because while we’ve held hundreds of dice at craps tables in Las Vegas and around the world, we never noticed this security measure despite the fact it’s in plain sight. Each casino die has a letter or number “monogrammed” on a designated spot before the spot is painted. While scammers may be able to replicate the exterior of a die, it’s difficult to convincingly fake a letter under pip paint. Check it out the next time you’re shooting for “boxcars” or “puppy paws.” Yes, there are a lot of nicknames for dice combinations.

Dice key letter spot

You’re totally going to win a bar bet with this one someday.

6. Casino Logos

Yes, imprinting a casino’s logo on dice is actually a security measure. On its own, putting a logo on dice is fairly easy to do, but this “unique identifier” is another element a cheater has to take into account, and another way they can get tripped up trying to use counterfeit dice.

Dice logos

Logos are typically printed on the side of the dice with one or two spots, because there’s more room. This isn’t rocket science.

7. Diamond Rubber Bumpers

This security measure is more about the table than the dice, but we’re including it, anyway. They have lots of names, but along the sides of a craps table are textured bumps, sometimes called “diamond rubber bumpers” or “pyramid bumpers” or even “alligator bumpers.” These textured bumpers make it much more difficult to manipulate how the dice will land.

Craps pyramids

It’s all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out.

8. Change-Outs

Casinos foil cheaters through a variety of means, including frequently changing out dice, just as they do with cards at the blackjack table. As mentioned, the randomness of rolls can be impacted by things like edges and corners becoming less sharp through use. Fresh dice are brought into a craps game every four to eight hours, often during a shift change. Casinos have the right to change out dice at any time, however. This sometimes happens during hot rolls, as casinos want to ensure a player’s good luck isn’t the result of dice tampering.

Dice

Casinos are paranoid about dice cheats, so always keep dice over the table and only use one hand to shake them before you shoot.

9. Perfect Cubes

There’s a reason casino dice are also called “precision dice.” That’s because casino dice are made to exacting specifications. Most casinos use 3/4-inch dice, and each of the die’s dimensions must be true to within 0.0005 of an inch, or approximately the length of this blog’s sexual organ. Just making sure you’re still paying attention.

Precision dice

Perfect cubes, of course, aren’t “perfect.” For example, some mistakenly believe Chicago-style pizza is actual pizza.

10. Pip Drilling and Backfilling

Even tiny variations in a die can cause it to roll in a less random way. Pips aren’t just painted in casino dice, they’re drilled. To make sure the side of the die with six pips doesn’t weigh more than the side with just one, the drilled holes are filled with a special paint that’s the same density as the rest of the die. Oh, all right, maybe there’s a little rocket science involved.

Dice pips drilling filling

Drilled Pips and The Backfillers were a terrific folk group in the 1970s.

11. Cancellation

When dice are removed from a table, casinos use a hand-operated press (or “punch”) to “cancel” the dice before they’re destroyed or sold in the casino’s gift shop. Cancellation markings, commonly in the shape of circle, make it easy for casino security, dealers and managers to see if a “retired” die has been put into play by an unscrupulous player.

Dice canceled

While Las Vegas casinos get away with this cancellation mark, Atlantic City casinos must drill a hole in canceled dice. Typically, it’s done by a guy nicknamed “Knuckles.” All due respect.

Craps is one of the most exciting games in a Las Vegas casino. Now, the next time you play, you’ll know all the dice security measures casinos take to keep players from cheating.

By the way, cheating in a Las Vegas casino is a felony. You have better things to do during your Las Vegas visit than going to the big house and being passed around like a social security number at a hacker convention.

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Golden Gate Casino Unveils Multi-Million Dollar Expansion

Downtown’s Golden Gate has revealed an expansion that nearly doubles the size of its casino floor, including the addition of about 100 new slot machines.

Golden Gate’s expansion encompasses the space formerly occupied by the La Bayou casino and an alley. You’ll want to see our “before” photos of the construction, of course.

Golden Gate casino

Three’s nothing quite like that new slot machine smell.

The centerpiece of the multi-million dollar expansion is a 24-foot tall fountain of TVs around a spiral chandelier.

Golden Gate expansion

Universal remote, much?

The TV fountain is made all the more dramatic by 468 mirrors lining a arced wall that frames the decorative piece. Yes, we asked. And, yes, we know we have issues.

The tower of televisions sits just inside a brand new entrance to the Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate’s expansion includes a new loyalty club desk.

Golden Gate loyalty desk

The loyalty desk was previously tucked away near the hotel’s registration desk. Now, it’s front and center. By the way, 1906 is the year the hotel opened, originally as Hotel Nevada. Technically, the Miller Hotel. Long story.

The previous loyalty club desk has vanished through some kind of Las Vegas magic.

Golden Gate casino

“Las Vegas magic” is, technically, redundant.

Golden Gate’s interior design was done by Dez Motif, the architecture by Moser Architecture Studio.

The Golden Gate took the opportunity during its expansion to entirely replace and upgrade its sound system throughout the existing casino.

A good deal of the expansion won’t be readily visible to guests. On the casino’s second floor, a new beer distribution room is a sight to behold.

Golden Gate beer room

Golden Gate’s new beer chilling room distributes suds to the casino’s Prohibition Bar, as well as the casino’s outdoor bars, now with the help of gravity.

Still in the works is an upgraded outdoor bar, One Bar. When completed, the bar will be 20 feet longer. Translation: More slushy drinks for us.

Golden Gate casino

You can never have too much bar. It’s Vegas.

While the new casino area at Golden Gate made its debut on Aug. 25, 2017, the expansion’s official opening takes place Sep. 1, 2017, with the requisite hoopla.

Golden Gate has done a great job of creating a new space that feels modern (so many TVs), but which stays true to its old-school roots (dark wood and marble).

When you check it out, let us know what you think. We’ll be at the end of Prohibition Bar, not noticing the dancing dealers. At all.

Golden Gate Expansion Reveal

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Golden Gate Expansion Nears Completion, Here’s a First Peek Inside

Golden Gate’s expansion is in the home stretch, and we’ve got an exclusive look inside.

Golden Gate expansion

Dead center is where the 24-foot tower of televisions will be. No, we haven’t talked about that yet. We don’t live by society’s rules.

The expansion has been months in the making as Golden Gate has moved into the footprint of the former La Bayou casino.

The additional space will nearly double the size of Golden Gate’s casino floor, adding about 100 slot machines.

Golden Gate will close temporarily on Aug. 20, 2017 to complete the build-out, and the new space will officially debut on Aug. 25.

If you know anything about this blog, you know we’re not real big on waiting for things to “officially debut,” so we had to do a security breach, while adhering to all applicable laws, ordinances and safety regulations, of course.

Golden Gate expansion

We love that new slot machine smell.

During the closure, virtually the entire east wall of Golden Gate’s existing casino will come down to connect the new and old spaces.

A highlight of Golden Gate’s expansion will be a 24-foot tower of TVs, surrounded by hundreds of beveled mirrors.

The television “fountain” will sit inside a new entrance to the casino, with marble flooring and velvet drapes.

The opening of the new casino area and entrance will coincide with an expansion of the casino’s lucrative outdoor bar, One Bar. The bar will expand 20 feet.

Golden Gate expansion

There are fewer words in the English language we love more than “more bar.”

Another big change at Golden Gate will be the relocation of the casino’s loyalty club desk. To complete the finishing touches of the loyalty club and casino expansion, it’s rumored crews will work 108 hours straight during the casino closure to meet the Aug. 25 debut date.

We’re exhausted just typing that sentence.

Golden Gate loyalty club

This is where they’re going to keep the loyalty.

To celebrate the debut of the casino expansion, owners Derek and Greg Stevens will host a free concert by Better Than Ezra on Sep. 3 at 9:00 p.m. The concert is a late addition to the free summer concert series put on by Fremont Street Experience (where we work as our day gig in digital marketing).

Golden Gate has made the most of a fairly modest space, and the casino interior already gives off a welcoming vibe with its mix of modern and classic design elements, including dark wood accents we sort of want to rub our various body parts up against for some reason.

Golden Gate expansion

Golden Gate opened in 1906. Back in those days, slot machines paid jackpots in cobwebs.

The new space is already filling up with shiny new slot machines (no classics from the Riviera here), many of which were too tall to put in other areas of the casino due to the classic casino’s low ceilings.

Golden Gate’s expansion is a great excuse to stop by during your next visit, and make sure to check out the demolition site just across Fremont Street while you’re there.

Here’s a little-known fact related to Golden Gate: The hotel was home to the first telephone in Las Vegas (the phone number was “1”), but that’s not the little known fact. The little-known fact is about who got the second telephone in Las Vegas. Any guesses?

We’ll wait.

You’re going to love this.

Golden Gate (originally called Hotel Nevada) was owned by John F. Miller. The second telephone in Las Vegas was installed in his home, at the behest of Miller’s wife, Rosa. Who else do you think he’d call with the city’s first phone? Now you know!

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Downtown Grand Snafu Reaps Big Wins for Players

It’s a Las Vegas story almost too good to be true, but it happened, and it’s sure to become the stuff of casino legend.

Recently, an error in Downtown Grand’s loyalty club system resulted in thousands of dollars in unearned free play for customers and tens of thousands in losses for the downtown casino.

Here’s how it went down.

On Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017, guests using their player’s cards noticed something strange when they accessed their Downtown Grand Rewards loyalty club accounts.

Rather than the typical free play offered by the casino, customers realized they were being given hundreds of additional dollars in free play for no apparent reason.

Ultimately, a system glitch resulted in each slot player receiving nearly a thousand dollars in free play ($970, to be exact), irrespective of their previous level of play. Or, to put it into the parlance of casino management, “Aieeee.”

Downtown Grand $1,000 rebate

They weren’t kidding.

Word of the snafu spread quickly, with customers alerting friends and relatives by phone and text so they, too, could take advantage of the administrative fluke.

While casino free play has no cash value, players are allowed to keep winnings resulting from the use of free slot play.

Downtown Grand’s incident (most likely caused by human error, according to casino insiders) resulted in players cashing out for substantial sums as a result of the gaff.

There’s no way to know how many players took advantage of Downtown Grand’s mistake or how long the glitch was in effect before casino management rectified it, but it’s safe to say the casino took a hit for tens of thousands of dollars.

One customer inquired about the abnormally generous free play and a Downtown Grand employee claimed a similar aberration had transpired a week prior, but players had mistakenly received free play in the $100 range.

Downtown Grand

We totally got a photo release from this guy and his suspenders, so no worries.

While magical for gamblers, errors like the one at Downtown Grand can do serious damage to a casino’s bottom line. Casino computer systems are sophisticated, but remain vulnerable to human fallibility.

The good news is Downtown Grand seems to have found its footing in recent months. We’ve heard the resort’s room bookings are strong and there are plans to add more room inventory soon.

The resort has also announced it will transform a nearby parking structure into The Quad (don’t get us started about the name), an entertainment district featuring a tavern, concert venue and fitness center. Read more.

Downtown Grand The Quad

Yay, new.

Here’s a better look at the plans for The Quad at Downtown Grand.

So, here’s the question: If you realized you were getting a thousand dollars in free play you hadn’t earned, what would you do? Would you keep playing or report the error to casino officials?

Let us know. We’re a Las Vegas blog, so we won’t judge. Probably.

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SLS Las Vegas Tweaks Loyalty Club Program, Unveils Club 52

SLS Las Vegas has rebranded its player loyalty program following news the resort is being sold to Alex Meruelo and his Meruelo Group.

The casino’s new loyalty club was unveiled June 1, 2017, and is called Club 52.

While the casino hasn’t officially said what Club 52 refers to, we’ve heard the name reflects the fact the Sahara opened in 1952. SLS Las Vegas, of course, was the result of a massive renovation of that classic Las Vegas hotel-casino.

SLS Club 52

The number 52 not only represents the year Sahara opened, it’s also the number of cards in a deck. It can also represent analysis, introspection and adventure. We are not making this up.

Renaming the player’s club could very well be a hint the resort will undergo its own rebrand, potentially back to Sahara.

Which would quite possibly be the coolest thing, ever.

SLS chandelier

Vestiges of Sahara can be found throughout SLS, including this sweet chandelier made of Sahara door handles.

Fun fact: Keen-eyed reader Mike P. shared that the design flourish inside the Club 52 logo was often used in Sahara artwork and around the Sahara itself during its heyday.

Sahara Buddy Hackett

That’s some serious Vegas throwback action right there.

With the launch of Club 52 at SLS, the tiers and their associated benefits have been rejiggered.

The previous loyalty club, The Code, had tiers named Select, Premium, Elite and Legend.

Club 52 has Preferred, VIP, Elite and Legend.

The SLS Las Vegas Web site lays out the perks of the various Club 52 tiers.

Here’s a look at what play will get you what slot points and tier credits.

Code 52 tiers points

Thank you, screen grab technology, for helping us avoid having to type all this information.

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about what changes are coming to SLS Las Vegas following its sale later this year, including spectacularly insightful ideas like, “SLS needs more casino and convention customers.”

The hope is new ownership at SLS Las Vegas can help a great resort find its footing in a challenging location and keep the legacy of Sahara alive.

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Comp Drink Validation to Be Rolled Out to Thousands of Slots on Las Vegas Casinos Floors

Another tectonic shift is coming to Las Vegas casinos, and we’ve got an exclusive look at what’s in store.

Back in Sep. 2016, we first reported comp drink validation systems were being installed at all casino bars with video poker at Caesars Entertainment resorts.

The purpose of the comp drink validation systems is to ensure guests are playing enough to warrant free drinks. Getting free drinks, of course, is a longtime tradition in Las Vegas casinos.

The bartop drink validation system measures a guest’s rate of play, and shows a red light or green light to bartenders. Green light, you get your free drink. Red light, you need to either step up your play, or pay for your drink.

Caesars comped drinks

Blue means you’re gambling, green means you’re due a free drink, red means you’re SOL.

Reaction to our original story about comp validation systems was strong, made local and international news and was not especially positive.

In short order, though, just about everyone realized (including this blog) that such systems have no effect on the typical player. They merely serve to deter those who want something for nothing, and provide bartenders a tool to do what they’ve always done—provide free drinks based upon a guest’s rate and level of play.

Ardent drink validation system

These are the drink monitoring devices currently in use at casino bars with video poker machines. But wait, there’s more.

Now, the company that makes and installs the drink validation system for bartops, Las Vegas-based Ardent Progressive Systems & Games, is about to field test a variation of the system for slots across the entire casino floor.

Albert Tabola, an Account Executive with Ardent, says his company currently has developed the next generation of comp drink validation devices, and they’re poised to implement them in thousands of slot machines across casino floors throughout Las Vegas and beyond.

Here’s a first look.

Ardent comp validation system

This simple device is about to change everything.

“Gaming approval has been given, so now we’ll be able to move on to the casino floor machines,” says Tabola.

At the moment, the company has about 1,000 drink validation units on bartop video poker machines. Slots on the casino floor can number in the thousands, from about 1,000 in a smaller casino to upwards of 3,000 in a Strip resort.

The benefit to casinos is fairly obvious. Ardent says one of its casino clients has already saved $1 million in comped drink costs at a single location.

But is there a case to be made drink monitoring has benefits to customers as well?

Tabola and the casinos say “yes.”

For starters, Tabola says his company’s Comp Anywhere comp validation system “will hopefully eliminate some of the arguments and headaches the cocktail waitresses encounter.” Customers looking for freebies without playing have long been a frustration for front line casino employees.

Giving cocktail servers a tool to easily determine if a player has earned a comp could dramatically speed up drink service for gamblers. We would be a huge fan of that particular outcome.

Las Vegas cocktail waitress

Not gonna lie, we were sort of just looking for an excuse to share photos of a Las Vegas cocktail waitress.

Drink validation systems have already proven useful in deterring customers from taking up machines they’re not playing.

“If you’ve been in a casino, you know them, you’ve seen them,” says Ardent’s Tabola. “They play a penny, then sit and wait for the cocktail waitress. We’re trying to solve the operator’s problem of players trying to get something for nothing.”

While Tabola acknowledges some guests are resistant to the use of validation technology, he’s seen reactions evolve as staffers and customers become accustomed to the machines.

“The feedback from casino staff has changed dramatically since the machines were first rolled out. I remember when we first installed these, the bartenders said, ‘This is just another whip you’re cracking on me,’ but after two to three months, they’ve said, ‘This is actually really great, I love this because it lets me clear my bar out of the people that are taking up space.”

The bottom line is there are lots of places to spend time in a casino, but machines are intended for those who are gambling.

Elvis slots

If you can get used to Elvis with a fanny pack, you can adjust to comp drink validation systems on the casino floor.

So, business and philosophy aside, what rate of play does it take to keep the drinks flowing?

On the current machines, it’s about $4-5 “coin-in” per minute. That can sound daunting until you break it down.

Tabola clarifies, “That’s not as much as it sounds. If you’re playing max bet on a video poker machine, that’s $1.25 a hand. So, if you play four hands every minute, then you’re fine. Typically, they’re playing 15-20 hands a minute.”

He says, “As an example, out of every $20 you play, let’s say the ‘hold’ is 10%, so the casino gets to keep $2. Well, if it costs them .80 for a beer, for a couple of beers, that’s $1.60 out of that $2. That leaves .40 to pay for the salaries, the benefits and everything else. That’s not a lot.”

This is typically the point in our drink monitoring stories when people scream, “Everything is ruined. No more free drinks in Las Vegas!” Ironically, comp drink validation systems may just have the opposite effect.

They may actually save the tradition of free drinks in casinos.

comp validation systems

It’s worth saying again, with a calming blue graphic.

“In the end,” says Tabola, “it’s not that casinos don’t want to give comped drinks, they want to do that. This gives them a way to measure that out and get those drinks to the right people.”

He concludes, “This technology helps make it feasible for the casinos to continue to provide complimentary beverages and not see them say ‘we’re not doing this any more at all because we can’t control the costs.'”

It’s what Vegas insiders have known for some time. Las Vegas casinos are taking a long, hard look at all their loss-leaders, and everything is up for grabs, including free drinks.

Slot machines

Back in the day, comped drinks were an incentive. Now, they’re a reward.

On a related note: Our feeling for some time has been that the practice of comped drinks should end in casinos altogether. We have a fondness for a particular brand of liquor, and we can rarely, if ever, get it on the casino floor because of an insidious and widespread practice we call the liquor brand swap. Ending comped drink service would mean we could just pay for our drink at the table, and we’d get the liquor we actually ordered.

In any event, comped drink validation machines aren’t just the future, they’re here and they’re on their way to Las Vegas casino floors.

Slot machines

Most players won’t even know a drink monitoring system is in place. A light will show a cocktail waitress your rate of play from 10 feet away.

The light colors on the card-reading bezels have yet to be determined (so we may not be able to use “red light, green light” as short hand for the practice), but Tabola says once field testing is complete, installation of the devices can be done “fairly quickly.”

Ultimately, free drinks in casinos have never truly been free. They’re paid for by gambling.

Soon, casino staffers won’t have to guess if you’re playing enough to warrant a free drink, the process will be automated. And that’s the biggest change in the culture and business of Las Vegas casinos in recent memory, with the potential for an even greater financial impact than paid parking.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Update (5/3/17): Thanks to KTNV here in Las Vegas for a great segment inspired by our story.

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