Las Vegas is a city synonymous with gambling. For some, the thought of gambling brings triumphant images of triple 7s on a hot slot machine, a perfect 21 at the blackjack table or a set of magic numbers thrown during an energetic game of craps.
For others, the idea of gambling may evoke dread or the fear of losing their life savings in a single night on the town. And for a select few other ultra-risky visitors, gambling is seen as an opportunity to cheat the system and come away rich. That is if they can evade the steep consequences of getting caught.
Laws About Gambling Cheats
If the infamous stories of gambling swindlers have anything in common, it is this: a cheater only gets away with cheating for so long. Nevada takes casino gambling cheats very seriously, as per NRS 465.083¹, which states it is unlawful for any person to cheat at a gambling game.
It is also unlawful to mark, alter or otherwise modify associated equipment or gaming device. And it is illegal to manufacture, sell, distribute, market, alter or modify equipment and devices associated with gaming, as per NRS 465.085².
That means even if an individual is not actively cheating the system in a casino but aids in any way in the process, including selling the equipment that helps someone cheat, that person is in violation of Nevada Law and will suffer the consequences.
Penalties for Cheating
Penalties for breaking these laws, as per NRS 465.088³, include being found guilty of a category B felony and punished as such:
- For the first offense, imprisonment of between 1-6 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- For a second or subsequent violation, the penalties are the same. Even conspiring to violate the NRS provisions (i.e., an individual plans to cheat but doesn’t actually succeed in it) can result in a guilty charge of a category B felony and hold the same negative consequences.
Learn more about penalties for cheating and gaming fraud in Nevada from our Las Vegas attorneys.
The most common defense against cheating is, “I wasn’t cheating.” This defense aims to prove that no cheating occurred and that the defendant’s actions during the gambling game were entirely compliant with the rules of the game. If an experienced criminal defense attorney can prove that nothing illegal occurred, the case will be dropped.
Another defense used against cheating is that there was police misconduct. For example, suppose the police or authorities perform an illegal search and seizure during their investigation of a cheating case. In that case, the criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence. After that, the judge may grant the motion and disregard all the illegally obtained evidence and, oftentimes, the case may be dropped for lack of substantial proof of cheating.
There is also the defense that states there was “no fraudulent intent.” Contact a trusted criminal defense attorney to learn more about these and other defenses.
Famous Gambling Cheats
Some of the most epic gambling cheats in history have taken place in Sin City. Here are infamous names associated with cheating at gambling:
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Spanning over decades, up through the 1990s, Tommy Glenn Carmichael cheated the system and got away with millions of dollars from fraudulent gambling activities. He did this by using his background as a television repairman to figure out how to rig slot machines and manipulate the gambling industry.
As technology advanced, so did Tommy’s skills, and he remained ahead of the game, continuing to rig machines and make out with big wins time and time again until his luck eventually ran out. He was caught and sentenced to jail in 1996.
In a USA Today interview, Tommy shared how his time in prison changed him. “You think about what you did, and the mistakes, and how to correct them,” he said. In addition to the time he spent behind bars, Tommy also did community service, had both of his homes repossessed, and was ordered to stay away from all casinos during his probation period.
Tommy remained true to his reflection about change, and he helped develop anti-cheating technology for slot machines so that other sly cheats like him couldn’t get away with beating the system. His most successful invention is called “The Protector” and blocks all of the known cheating devices being used on the casino floors.
Another legendary Las Vegas cheat is Dominic LoRiggio. Often referred to simply as “The Dominator” or more mythically as “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Dominic was a top cheat at the craps tables. He fine-tuned his technique over years of practice before eventually implementing it at the tables. In short: he learned a way to roll the dice so he could control exactly which numbers they landed on!
At first, it was difficult for authorities to prove that LoRiggio was cheating. However, they eventually banned him from Las Vegas casinos. No longer able to game the system himself, LoRiggio did the next best thing: opened a school/program to teach “his students” how to have golden arms of their own and cheat the system.
Gonzalo Garci-Pelayo was already a music and film producer from Spain before developing his side career as a gambling cheat. He is still known as the most famous roulette cheater in history. He spent months studying and gathering data about the game before he set out to beat it. Together with his eldest son and eldest daughter, the cheating family accumulated over $700,000 in less than a year’s worth of roulette playing.
Gonzalo and his family got away with over $2 million from Las Vegas casinos before they stopped pushing their luck and moved on. Casinos have since made intricate changes to the game and the wheel to prevent swindlers like Gonzalo from cheating the system.
A famous female gambling cheat is Ida Summers. She used her beauty to distract pit bosses and dealers. She became known as the “Vegas Vixen” in the 1960s because of her ability to swindle on the gambling floor. Ida typically worked the blackjack tables using hand-mucking techniques (similar to sleight of hand, in which she removed and added cards to the table, as needed.) She eventually progressed to adding entire decks of prearranged cards to ensure the house lost and she won.
At the pinnacle of her cheating career, Ida oversaw a team of ten individuals working for her at the tables, using her cheating techniques. She took a percentage of their winnings and accumulated her illegal riches—which she used to buy expensive clothing and jewelry.
Ida enjoyed her fashionable lifestyle and winnings for years before being under investigation by the FBI and eventually caught and taken into custody.
If convicted of cheating at gambling in Las Vegas (or elsewhere in the state of Nevada), an individual’s records can be sealed five years after the case is officially closed. That rule only applies if the person is found guilty. If they are not found guilty, or the case is dismissed, there is no waiting period to have the record sealed.