Every once in a while, an interesting gambling related story pops up that raises other questions. I receive emails about these stories, so rather than answering the questions on-by-one, I’ll start a recurring series that goes into depth about various gambling related news and discuss them using my personal experience and knowledge.

In that spirit, let’s talk about this story…

CRAPS DEALER ADDED TO NEVADA ‘BLACK BOOK’ FOR CRAPS SCAM

In 2015, a Bellagio craps dealer and his associated were convicted of scamming the Bellagio out of $1.2 million. Their scam involved late hops bets that the associates would allegedly make. Marc Branco, the dealer involved in the scam, would allegedly hear these bets and pay out the phantom bets.

According to authorities, the odds of winning what they won were a staggering 452 billion to 1.

The scam ran from August 2012 to July 2014. It took nearly two years to catch the crooks!

Here is the full story from 2016, for those who are interested: hop bets scam.

On May 24, 2019, Marc Branco was added to the notorious Nevada ‘black book’ of prohibited persons. No more free martinis for him!

WHAT IS THE BLACK BOOK?

The ‘black book’ is a nickname for one of two lists that are painted by either the Nevada Gaming Control Board or Griffin Investigations.

For the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission list, click here.

By law, the casinos must take steps to prevent prohibited persons from gambling.

The second ‘black book’ is the list of undesirable persons fingered by Griffin Investigations. The casinos pass this list around and will generally trespass (if they haven’t already) any such person who tries to enter casino premises.

If you’re added to the black book, your days of gambling in a brick and mortar casino are over.

WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO CATCH THESE GUYS?

This is the most common question I receive regarding this story. Well, I have some experience in catching embezzlers and can tell you the exact reason why it took so long: because the business trusted the employee, and usually the crooks are only caught when they slip up. It’s really that simple.

RoadGambler’s Personal Experience 

As any business owner will tell you, part of what I do it keep an eye on embezzlement and other internal loss. A few years ago, I was made a foray into the automotive business.

For the sake of anonymity, I’m going to keep the names confidential.

At this particular dealership that was losing money, I was brought on as a minority equity partner; however, before I completed the transaction, I performed a due diligence on the business. It turned out that the general manager was stealing cars at this dealership. We weren’t talking one or two cars, but millions of dollars worth of cars.

Like any dealership, this particular dealership would take trade-ins, and like most new car dealerships, they would take quite a few of their cars to a third party for auction. Certain cars couldn’t be sold, so those cars would be donated away to some far off city.

The crooked manager would then claim that a certain name of cars couldn’t be sold. He then allegedly disposed of those units through charitable donation or via selling to the scrap yard.

When I performed my due diligence, it turned out the crook had been siphoning off cars for a long time. The partners never knew about the loss, and it wasn’t until we performed our due diligence that we noticed an unusually high number of cars that were deemed to be not fit for auction.

This person had been able to embezzle millions of dollars worth of cars for years before being caught.

The owners didn’t catch the guy because they trusted him. No one, other than the crook, looked after the traded-in cars, so it was like a case of the fox watching the hen house. It was a simple case of blind trust.

The crooks who are stealing cars one at a time from the Wal-Mart parking lots are doing it the hard way.

Back to the Craps Dealer

In the case of our Bellagio dealer, they trusted the guy, so he was probably able to get away with it for quite a while. Sure, there’s a boxman and stick, but remember my video of the Resorts game where the box and stick were messing up simple things like the correct point? The craps table is a hectic environment, with multiple things going on.

Many times, players can throw in late bets and the dealer will just book the bet. Oftentimes, no one other than the dealer will have heard the bet. If the crook has an accomplice dealer, it’s not a terribly difficult scam to pull off.

And don’t forget, at many Nevada strip casinos, they no longer use a boxman. Here is a craps game at Bellagio. Notice, no boxman. Watch any of my craps videos and notice how often a bet is stated to the base dealer, and no one but the base dealer player hears the bet.

Bellagio in Las Vegas. No boxman. WCGW???
Paris casino in Las Vegas. No boxman, either.
Craps at the Linq casino in Las Vegas.

WHY DIDN’T THE GANG STOP?

This question has a simple answer also: greed.

In addition to greed, there is the psychological factor. Simply stated, life with a normal paycheck becomes boring when crooks are presented with extra ‘free’ money.

Let’s work this out…

Dealers at a good strip casino will make a nice high five figure salary, approaching six figures (so I am told).

If we do the math, that comes out to about $1500 a week or so. After taxes, our dealer is taking home maybe $1200 a week.

At $1200 a week, he is maybe living a comfortable life if he isn’t a degenerate, but he isn’t living an extravagant life.

All of a sudden, our dealer has figured a way to win hundreds of of dollars a week. Of course, greed sets in and ‘hundreds a week’ becomes ‘thousands a week’.

In two years, they managed to scam the Bellagio out of $1.2 million. Let’s say the scam goes for 24 months, which is $50,000 per month. There were four people involved in the scam, so let’s assume our dealer got his cut at 1/4th of the take.

That comes out to $12,500 per month, all in cash and tax free extra.

All of a sudden the $4800 per month take home seems so…boring.

So psychologically, they can’t stop because now they’re used to the extra money.

If I were to make a pure guess, our crooks probably started out making small bets and scamming the casino out of small amounts, but eventually, they got bolder and bolder and started making bigger hits on the casino.

A common thing that happens in embezzlement cases is that the crooks start spending more. It’s easy to spend and waste money that you didn’t sweat, bleed, and earn. So the crooks start buying and doing stupid shit. Eventually, it traps them in a cycle that requires bigger scores. Going back to the first question, that’s also why sometimes it takes so long to catch. Management won’t know they’ve been ‘had’ until the crooks slip up.

Almost every embezzler at some point will give themselves an illicit raise which leads to their undoing. Psychologically, they can’t help it because their normal existence becomes too plain. They’ve had a taste of the high life, and the high life is addicting.

So they keep on going and keep on pushing the envelope until they’re caught.

That’s why they didn’t stop.

LET’S HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS

I love reading about gambling related news. When this story came out, I spoke to a few dealers who gave me other interesting perspectives on the story.

If you have any additional insight or thoughts, let us know. We all have our own personal experiences that bring additional insight and perspectives, and I would love to hear it!

Posted in: Casino, Gambling, Hotel

0 thoughts on “Gambling Related News: The Crooked Bellagio Dealer

  • John Koryto says:

    It’s a very difficult scam to catch someone doing. As you stated, the absence of a box makes it even easier. The temptation to steal by dealers, especially dealers who like to gamble, is very high. More often then not this type of scam is reported by a fellow player who knows or is friends with the supervisor and hears and sees what is going on right next to him.

    • RoadGambler says:

      Difficult, if not nearly impossible. In the end, it also hurts the honest dealers and employees. It’s a horrible betrayal.

    • RoadGambler says:

      I guess the bean counters thought cutting the box salary was worth it in the long run because I still don’t see permanent boxmen at the strip games.

      Something else I didn’t point out is that the $1.2M ultimately belongs to mom and pop because in the end, Bellagio is owned by MGM, which is a publicly traded company. Pensions and retirement accounts are shareholders of MGM.

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