“Go big or go home” says the gambler seated beside you at the blackjack table. Everyone knows the odds in a casino are against the player, so you’re both probably trying different tricks to win.
Some, like counting cards in your mind, are legal. However, most of the other ways you can think of are probably against the law.
The Casino Control Act (CCA) contains most of the casino-related offences you could get fined or jailed for. You may also be charged under other laws such as the Penal Code or the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSCA).
What People have Gotten Caught for
8 not-so-lucky ways gamblers have tried to win more at casinos but got themselves arrested, fined or jailed instead are:
1. Sneaking in bets after the dealer reveals the result (also known as past-posting)
In July 2015, a 23-year old man tried to bet $500 after the dealer revealed the winning result of a Sic-Bo game at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Casino. He stood to win $25,000 if he was not caught.
However, the dealer caught the man and alerted the pit manager. The CCTV also recorded the past-posting.
He was sentenced to 4 weeks’ jail for cheating at play under the CCA.
2. Swapping cards
4 Turkish tourists won $6,075 while playing Three Card Poker in August 2015 by tricking the dealer at the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) Casino.
One tourist distracted the dealer and another blocked the other patrons’ view so the remaining 2 conspirators could exchange cards under the table.
The dealer did not discover what they were doing. However, the RWS surveillance team picked up on their tricks on CCTV. The tourists were sentenced to between 12 weeks’ and 6 months’ jail for cheating at play.
3. Taking advantage of a system error to obtain more free credits
3 MBS loyalty programme members took advantage of a system glitch to obtain free play credits, which they used to win about $875,133 from electronic roulette machines.
One of them was redeeming her loyalty Sands Bonus Dollars for free play credits when she discovered the glitch. Her redemptions were not recorded because of the glitch and she repeatedly used the glitch to obtain more free play credits.
Instead of informing MBS, she told the other 2 loyalty programme members how to do the same. Together, they obtained $1.029 million worth of free credits from the glitch. They either kept their winnings, transferred their winnings to others or converted them into gaming chips.
Their exploits were later discovered by MBS. They were charged under the CDSCA and sentenced to between 12 to 26 months’ jail. They also agreed to return the $875,133 to MBS.
4. Stealing a playing card machine to photograph the cards’ sequence
In May 2013, 13 Thai nationals stole a baccarat playing card machine from MBS. They crowded around the cabinet holding the card machines and brought it to their hotel room, where they laid out and photographed the cards in sequence. They then replaced the cards in sequence and put the playing card machine back in the cabinet.
The next day, they played baccarat at the same table as the stolen card machine and won about $1.372 million in 3 hours. Casino staff caught on their scheme after the Thai nationals’ actions were recorded on CCTV. They were sentenced to between 12.75 months and 17.25 months jail under the CCA.
5. Making under-the-table deals with the dealer to see the last card in the deck
A Singaporean befriended 3 RWS croupiers and colluded with them to cheat RWS of $12,915 between May and July 2015. While playing Three Card Poker, the dealers flashed the last card in the deck to the gambler in exchange for 20% of his winnings.
The scheme was exposed by CCTV footage which showed the 3 dealers showing the last card in the deck to the gambler.
The gambler was jailed for 12 months. 2 of the dealers were sentenced to 4 and 8 months’ jail. The last dealer is on the run.
6. Making under-the-table deals with the dealer to get paid extra chips
2 Chinese students were jailed for 8 and 15 weeks respectively under the CCA for making under-the-table deals with an MBS baccarat dealer between April and May 2016.
The dealer would either overpay their winning bets or not take in the losing bets. At times, the dealer even paid out on losing bets. The dealer would also hand the students extra chips when they were going to convert the chips to cash.
Their scheme obtained them about $19,700. After the chips were converted to cash, they would meet in the MBS hotel toilets to split the money. The dealer was said to be the mastermind and jailed for 8 months and 12 weeks under the Penal Code and the CCA. The 3 of them also paid $20,275 back to MBS.
7. Convincing other players at the table they have lost
In December 2015, 4 men and 2 women from China were charged with cheating at play under the CCA. What they did was to convince other players at the MBS and RWS baccarat tables that these players had lost their bets. They then pocketed their victims’ chips.
They reportedly cheated victims of about $700 worth of chips. The 6 suspects were also believed to have cheated other casino patrons by pretending to help them place bets.
8. Using smartphones to record jackpot machines’ play patterns
A Czech national and 2 Russians won $108,995 from the jackpot machines (also known as slot machines) at MBS and RWS over 3 days in May 2016 by using their smartphones to film the jackpot machines’ play patterns.
They later uploaded the recordings to a server to predict the jackpot machines’ mass payouts. The predictions were sent back to the players’ smartphones to alert them of the mass payouts.
They were part of a Russian syndicate which paid players 10% of the winnings. All 3 were charged with cheating at play under the CCA. The Czech national was jailed for 22 months. The 2 Russians were sentenced to 45 and 30 months’ jail respectively.
The 45-month jail sentence was later reduced on appeal to 38 months after the courts introduced and applied new sentencing guidelines for the offence of cheating at play.
Other Casino Offences
Other illegal behaviour under the CCA include:
- Putting fake coins into a jackpot or slot machine
- Making fake chips or chip purchase vouchers
- Using any device to count or record the cards dealt
- Carrying, selling, or buying fake chips to use as real chips (and the use of such fake chips)
- Carrying or using tampered cards or dice
- Carrying or using anything which could interfere with the casino’s games
- Tricking the dealer to get more money
- Pretending to be casino staff
While the UK Supreme Court has held in a lawsuit against Genting Casinos that edge-sorting by a gambler himself will be considered cheating, it remains to be seen whether Singapore will take the same approach.
Casino Control Act Punishments
Depending on which CCA offence you have been suspected of committing, you can be arrested without a warrant and jailed for up to 7 years, fined up to $150,000, or both.
At the very least, the CCA empowers Singapore casinos to detain you until the police arrives if they suspect you cheated. We don’t imagine that’s an enjoyable way to spend a free day.