Star Casino Loses $3m Thanks to Trio’s Dodgy Hand Signals

Magician displays sleight of hand
Charges that a dealer’s sleight of hand helped two gamblers win $3m were dismissed by a judge in Australia.

30-second summary

• NSW (Australia) District Court trial against trio falls flat
• Hand signals, sleight of hand, or “phone communication” allegedly used to cheat The Star Casino
• All three men acquitted as “no particular person had been deceived by their actions”
• The prosecution has appealed

A trial was held late last year before Judge Peter Whitford on the charge that a casino dealer assisted two men in placing winning bets by using hand signals, sleight of hand, and possibly phone communication. However, due to a ruling that no “particular person” was deceived, all three men applied for acquittal and walked free.

Sleight of hand ‘reason for winnings’

Over a 10-day period in July 2016, two gamblers placed bets of as much as $250,000 (£192,900) while playing in an extravagant private gaming suite that was monitored by cameras. During this time, they allegedly cheated, with the help of the Star Casino dealer, who used hand signals to help the men place winning bets, and sleight of hand to see forthcoming cards during games of Baccarat. By the end of this 10-day gambling spree, the pair walked away with a cool $3m (2.3m).

The three men were accused of duping the Star casino out of the $3 million. However, the sleight of hand movements, which the prosecution claimed led to their winnings, were apparently used by other dealers at the casino. Peter Neil, SC, representing one of the betting men, said there was even photo evidence of these precise actions being used by other dealers, which would often last from 3 to 30 seconds.

He said that even the Star Casino failed to identify anyone who had been tricked and that The Star had been subpoenaed to provide records of the supervisors, but nothing was produced. He said, “If all these people were identified and called, all the supervisors, all the tellers … they could only have given one obvious answer: that they didn’t see anything and if they did, they would’ve reported it.”

Acquitted of initial 20 charges

The three men, whose identities have been suppressed, faced charges of “participating in a criminal group,” 20 counts each of “dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception,” and backup charges of “obtaining or attempting to obtain a benefit from a casino by dishonest means.”

The men successfully applied to be acquitted after the Crown finished presenting its evidence. Judge Whitford agreed that there was some evidence of deceit in obtaining their winnings, however, because “no particular person” had been deceived, he allowed the men to walk free.

Demanding a retrial

Prosecutors are demanding a retrial. Mr. Hatfield, crown prosecutor, said that the judge’s decision was an “error of law” and that there was no equivocacy in this case because video proof had been provided of the offenses, “down to the precise time.” He also claims that, in this instance, it wasn’t essential that a natural person had been deceived, because the casino had been deceived and suffered loss.

However, Mr. Neil stands by his view that “if there was any case that didn’t warrant a retrial, it was this one,” adding that there needed to be proof and that, in order for the charge of cheating to be successful, the conduct (in this case by the dealer) operated on the mind of someone (in this case the gamblers). He claims this is not the case and said that, should the appeal succeed, the Crown would unfairly change the charges against his client to obtain a different result.

All parties await the decision on retrial.