A group of alleged hustlers from NY and NJ have been charged with cheating at roulette at various Ohio casinos. (Image source: The Blade)

A group of gamblers from the New York City area has allegedly been running roulette scams at four Ohio casinos over the last year, but it appears that their run is at an end. At least 13 individuals have been arrested as part of the scheme, and many more arrests could be coming in the near future.

“This is a very organized group of about 70 people,” said Karen Huey, director of enforcement for the Ohio Casino Control Commission. “They travel the country. They’ve been identified in 18 states running this scam.”

Extensive Ring Involved

Four men were awaiting sentencing in a Cincinnati court, while there are also a number of outstanding arrest warrants for individuals who did not show up for their scheduled court hearings. The individuals who have been arrested have all come from the New York area – many from the Bronx, and some from New Jersey – with most originally hailing from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.

The scam began at the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, where six individuals were arrested, but five later failed to appear in court. Other casinos that have been hit as a part of the scheme were the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland, the Hollywood Casino in Columbus, and the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati.

Color Up Scheme Used

The plot is what’s known as a “color-up” scam. In live roulette games, players do not normally use standard casino chips to play; with so many players at a table and so many possible bets, it would become impossible to keep track of which bets belong to which players. Instead, each player is given chips of a unique color, with the denomination of those chips being determined when the player buys them.

The color-up scheme attempts to take advantage of this by having a player buy chips at the $1 level. They will play for a short while, and then cash out. However, they’ll discretely hold on to some of their roulette chips – chips which are meant to never leave the roulette table – and take them to another area of the casino, such as the bathroom.

Since there are no surveillance cameras in bathroom areas in a casino, the original player can then pass off the roulette chips to a partner, who will then take them back to the roulette table. There, they’ll buy chips at a higher denomination – perhaps $25 – and then arrange to get the same color previously used by the partner. After playing for a few minutes, they’ll cash out the chips gained from their partner, allowing chips purchased for $1 to be redeemed for $25 each. Using large teams, the scam can be performed even more easily, as the players involved can be sure that one group buys cheap chips of several colors, and then a second group will be sure to get those colors when they later visit the table.

While the scheme may seem inelegant, it does have the potential to be quite profitable. In a typical operation, the team might net $1,000 to $2,000 in under an hour. In one instance, two scammers at the Hollywood Casino Columbus were confronted and ran out, leaving behind what would have been $2,700 in illegal gains.

According to Ohio Casino Control Commission chief legal counsel John Barron, the state of Ohio wishes to aggressively prosecute these cases in order to make an example of the scammers.

“These are professional cheaters who threaten the integrity of gaming in Ohio,” Barron said.

Huey says there have been 101 documented cases of cheating via numerous different systems in Ohio casinos since land gambling was legalized in that state. The majority of these have emanated from the Cleveland Horseshoe, simply due to its having the most foot traffic of any in the state.