Gaming Regulators Warn Casinos About Scam Where Workers Steal Cash

Posted on: August 9, 2023, 08:25h. 

Last updated on: August 9, 2023, 10:51h.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) recently issued stern warnings to casinos about an ongoing scam targeting casino workers.

Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Kirk Hendrick
Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair, Kirk Hendrick, pictured above. The board warned casinos about a theft scam. (Image: The Nevada Independent)

The nefarious scheme involves calls made to cash cage employees. The caller poses as a top casino executive and instructs the employee to take money from the casino and bring it to another location.

The caller suggests there will be “negative consequences” if the employee doesn’t go along with the instructions.

Whenever an employee hesitates or resists prompt action, subjects state there is extreme urgency for the offsite payment,” the July 7 NGCB statement said. “Additionally, inferences are made that an employee bonus will be paid for the inconvenience of the unorthodox assignment.”

The initial call is followed by a text message sent to the employee’s cell phone which confirms the instructions.

Particularly susceptible to the scheme are cage cashiers, supervisors, and managers, as well as surveillance, security, and gaming pit personnel, according to the NGCB.

The board wants casinos to warn vulnerable employees about the scam.

“The cage scam is sophisticated and has been surprisingly effective in defrauding casinos,” the NGCB statement added.

Two Incidents

Authorities made arrests in two recent incidents where the scheme was employed.

In June, Erik Gutierrez, 23, was charged with theft of more than $100K after he impersonated being the owner of a Las Vegas casino hotel, authorities said.

Gutierrez allegedly called a Circa Hotel & Casino cage supervisor and told the person to fork over money for the purchase of fire prevention devices and for an emergency payment to the fire department.

The cage supervisor removed the cash, and on several occasions transported money to someone at an off-site location, authorities said. She believed the person accepting the cash was an attorney for the casino.

After identifying Gutierrez as the suspect, officers searched his residence and located a “large bag of U.S. currency bundled together with the name Circa written on the bundle,” Las Vegas TV station KLAS reported.

Officers were able to recover about $850K. The rest of the estimated $1.1 million taken from the property has yet to be recovered.

On July 30, Danika Young, 38, of Coloma, Mich., a cash cage supervisor at Michigan’s Four Winds Hartford Casino, allegedly stole $700K from the gaming property.

A caller told her to bring the money to a location in Gary, Ind. She did and was charged with embezzlement by an employee of $100K or more, according to Michigan TV station WOOD. That missing money has yet to be recovered.

Tribal Warning

The NIGC released a July 13 statement about the scam.

Recently, there have been multiple instances of scams at commercial and tribal gaming operations with losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the NIGC statement revealed.

“We urge tribal officials to ensure that (employees) … who have direct access to cash assets … are made aware of the scam and know what to do in the event of such a call…”

Artificial Intelligence

There is more of a risk for such scams given recent advances in technology.

Licensees should be aware that advanced forms of technology, such as artificial intelligence, may increase the effectiveness of this type of fraudulent activity,” the NGCB statement warned.

“Consequently, heightened security protocols must be developed now to safeguard all employee information and casino assets.”