Bill to Criminalize Casino Cheating in Maryland Gains Support

Ace up the sleeve
A draft bill in Maryland will make cheating at casinos a criminal offense.

30-second summary:

  • A new bill will criminalize specific forms of casino cheating
  • Cheating at casinos is not currently a criminal offense
  • This has led to significant numbers of cheating incidents
  • Convicted cheats will face severe penalties

Cheating in Maryland

Most states have laws in place that make it not very worthwhile for cheaters to try and pull a fast one on the casino. However, Maryland is often viewed as a state that has a serious problem with cheating at casinos. Casinos have been legal in Maryland since 2013.

Maryland currently has no law that criminalizes casino cheating in the state. All the casinos can do if they find someone cheating is to evict them from the premises and ban them. They are not able to press criminal charges.

Many cheats, however, often return to the premises and continue to do so either by using someone else’s ID, or not providing ID when they are asked. It is up to a casino’s surveillance team to catch a cheater each time they enter the premises.

For example, the surveillance team at the MGM National Harbor Casino caught 172 instances of cheating in 2017. The casino reckons this is around 25% of the total number of cheaters annually at the premises.

The Maryland figures make up 63% of the cases of casino cheating in all MGM facilities in the US, highlighting how significant the problem is there. There is an onus on ensuring that Maryland isn’t seen as an easy mark for cheaters.

 

A new criminal statute

A bill was proposed last year to criminalize cheating in Maryland’s casinos. However, it was thought that it was not detailed enough to be widely encompassing. Besides, it had only a single sponsor.

Now, a new bill has been proposed that aims to stop casino cheats in the state. House Bill 1806 will enshrine criminal statutes for Maryland’s six casinos. Five lawmakers are supporting House Bill 1806. Each of them represents Prince George’s County, where the MGM National Harbor Casino is located.  

Currently, the MGM National Harbor Casino is the leader in the state in terms of revenues.  MGM is lobbying intensively for House Bill 1806, and it also has support from the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore which is under the ownership of Caesars Entertainment.

The next step for this bill is to be put under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee. Its next scheduled meeting is on March 1.

What’s in the bill?

The bill defines a number of different cheating techniques: dice sliding, card marking, bet switching, bet pinching, past posting and bet capping.

Those found to be guilty of breaching these laws will face significant penalties. For those cheating facilities out of sums of $100 or less, they could face a jail sentence of up to three months, as well as a fine. For those who cheat a facility out of at least $1,500, but no more than $25,000, they could be charged with a felony. This would carry a prison sentence of up to five years and also a fine in the region of $10,000.

Convicted cheats would also have to repay the facility the money that they cheated them out of. The burden of proof for those suspected of cheating will fall on the state of Maryland.

Likelihood of this bill passing?

The main issue with the 2018 draft legislation was that it was poorly written. Specific offenses were not explained or defined in any way. There was also the matter of interpretation.

Questions were raised over whether taking credit from empty slot machines was also deemed to be a cheating offense, or if it would be only those offenses committed at table games.

Of course, it is in the interest of the state to ensure that it does not get a bad reputation for attracting cheaters and facilitating them. Therefore, it seems likely that this bill will get sufficient support.