Canadian Couple Call Out Dominican Republic ‘Progressive Roulette’ Casino Scam

Posted on: April 18, 2019, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: April 19, 2019, 07:00h.

A Canadian couple have issued a stark warning to vacationers visiting the Dominican Republic – and the casino at the Hotel Riu Bambu resort near Punta Cana in particular: beware of a scam casino game described as “progressive roulette.”

Progressive roulette
Trouble in Paradise: Jay Lush (left) and Steve Bungay fell prey to the scam casino game called “progressive roulette” in the Dominican Republic. A quick Google search reveals they are not the only ones. (Image: CBC)

Jay Lush and Steve Bungay from Newfoundland told CBC Radio 1’s St John’s Morning Show this week they believed the casino was legit because it was attached to the Hotel Rui Bambu, which they had booked through the Sunwing travel agency.

But the couple said the casino played them like a fiddle before frog-marching them to an ATM and demanding they withdraw thousands of dollars.

“I just kept saying to Steve, ‘Let’s just go to the room, I don’t want to talk about this.’ I felt like we got assaulted. I was embarrassed. I was horrified. I felt so stupid that we fell for something like this,” Lush told CBC.

What is Progressive Roulette?

On entering the casino, Lush and Bungay were greeted by a hostess who offered them $25 in complimentary chips for the so-called “progressive roulette” game – in which players are invited to throw eight balls into a spinning wheel so that they each fall into a slot with an assigned number.

The dealer adds up the values of each ball to give the player a total score on every spin. Each score has a different result assigned to it on a table chart – some positive, some negative – and the goal is to reach a certain score to win a jackpot, but it all happens so rapidly the mark has little time to take in the rules.

Typically, players will find themselves in a situation where it appears that they are just a few points off a big win, but it’s all illusory. Each spin costs money, and players will often find the jackpot suddenly doubles, which sounds good, but it really isn’t. The jackpot may mushroom, but the player’s score doesn’t, which essentially means the goalposts have just been moved much further away.

Within about six minutes, [Steve] was one point away, they told him, from winning $100,000 and if he kept rolling, he was guaranteed to win,” Lush said. “At that moment we realized something wasn’t right.”

The next bet would cost $1,200, the dealer said.

“We kind of panicked and said stop,” said Lush. “Immediately they brought Steve over to the cashier and demanded the payment. This turned out to be $6,500 Canadian.”

Free Coffee

When the pair began withdrawing money from the ATM in $200 increments, their banks froze their cards. Casino staff demanded they make phone calls to get the money wired. Staff refused to return Bungay’s driving license, which he had provided as ID, until they did.

When Bungay and Lush complained to the hotel, they were laughed down, and told the casino was a separate, privately run enterprise.

But the two Canadians are not the only ones to fall prey to the dangers of “progressive roulette.” A quick Google search reveals the scam has been in operation in casinos throughout the Caribbean nation for years.

Bungay and Lush were ultimately allowed to leave the casino after they had spent two hours making phone calls, arranging the payment. They were then given two “free” bags of coffee and were thanked for their business.