Guilty Plea by Dealer Who Helped Players Cheat $1m from Maryland Casino

Closeup cropped image of man hand pulling out a hidden ace from his sleeve

Many casino workers through the years have helped players to cheat money from a casino. However, most of the time the amount stolen isn’t as high as $1m (£770,000). A dealer who aided players in cheating $1m from a Maryland casino has pleaded guilty to the charge.

Details of this case

The person in question was a Baccarat dealer in a prominent casino in Maryland who was accused of helping players cheat in return for getting a cut of these winnings. He has pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to transport stolen funds during his federal court case.

The dealer, Ming Zhang from Alexandria, Virginia, faces prison time of up to five years if the maximum sentence is handed down.

Zhang helped the players to cheat by exposing a portion of the baccarat deck. This allowed someone to take a photograph of the cards when they were unshuffled, after which co-conspirators staked significant wagers on subsequent hands.

The cheating took place in September 2017. If a person is aware of what way the cards are ordered in a Baccarat deck, they are then able to predict accurately what the outcome of a given hand will be. Therefore, they are almost guaranteed to win and can place large bets because they are confident of the outcome.

Assistant US Attorney Erin Pulice explained the scheme and showed how the casino lost $1,046,560. The casino was not named, but an MGM National Harbor spokesperson confirmed that Zhang had been employed there. The MGM National Harbor is near Washington DC.

The casino spokesperson also confirmed that Zhang is not employed there any longer and that they have been cooperating fully with the authorities in the case.

Sentencing is expected to be handed down on January 31, 2019, by US District Judge Paul Grimm. In the meantime, the dealing license for Zhang will be revoked by the chief regulatory agency in the state.

The MGM National Harbor is one of six casinos operating in Maryland.

Other instances of cheating

In any industry that is cash flush, there will be people who try to skim their own cut off the top. Many cheating scandals have been reported at casinos across the world.

In February 2018, for example, two people were arrested in Louisiana after they were found to be cheating at poker in one of the local casinos. The cheating involved the dealer for a jackpot game worth more than $160,000 (£123,000) who stacked the deck in favor of his co-conspirator.

A dealer helping a co-conspirator to tilt the odds and almost guarantee a win is a familiar story. However, with the monitoring and intelligence systems employed by casinos nowadays, it is continually becoming harder to con the system and get away with it.

The casino industry has evolved each time it has been forced to deal with a major cheating incident. For years, some slots players used a coin with a hole drilled through and a string attached through the hole. The coin could be pulled out after each spin, so it could be used over and over. That’s why a lot of casinos now accept only notes or certain cards.

Counterfeit coins have also been used in slot machines across the US, which was another reason for the moving towards notes and cards. Counterfeit notes are still an issue, causing most casinos to incorporate note validators as part of their slots machines.

A brother and sister won more than $1m (£770,000) when working alongside a French roulette dealer in 1973. They used a radio transmitter hidden in a cigarette pack. The dealer had a special roulette ball that could communicate with the transmitter when a button was pushed. Eventually, a debugging crew discovered this radio transmitter.

Blackjack, of course, has spurred countless card counting scams over the years that have won tens of millions from casinos. Highly advanced intelligence systems now identify suspicious betting patterns from blackjack players who are suspected of card counting.