This is a unique story in so many ways, because not only was it an example of cheating that worked, but despite the culprits being caught they got off scot free.
It all happened in 2004, when a team of 3 walked into the Ritz under Piccadilly and began to bet on roulette.
The trio have never been named, but it is known that they were two Serbian men and one Hungarian woman, all aged in their 30s.
The first night they were there they walked away with £100,000 of the casino’s money, but the next night they came back and really upped the ante.
By the end of the evening they were in profit to the tune of £1.2 million, which quite understandably got the casinos attention.
They were given £300,000 in cash and a cheque was written for the rest, but the casino wasn’t going to leave it there.
Cheating with a Laser
After reviewing the security tapes (as all casinos do after big wins) it was discovered that the gang must have been cheating in some way using their mobile phones.
The police were informed, the remaining winnings were frozen, and the gang were arrested, which is when the truth behind the scam began to unfold.
They had been using laser technology to judge what is called the ‘decaying orbit’ of the ball; this basically means judging its speed in comparison to the speed of the wheel and therefore figuring out where the ball was likely to land.
It wasn’t accurate enough to predict the specific pocket, but was accurate enough to predict an area of the wheel. This is known as ‘sector targetting’, and the gang would use neighbour bets to give themselves a safety barrier.
The lasers were built into their mobile phones and then linked to a computer, which would calculate the data and tell them where to place their bets. They had to do all this before the wheel went round three times and the dealer called no more bets, so it all happened in a matter of seconds.
The gang were caught red handed, with lots of cash and tech paraphernalia in their hotel room. But things got even more bizarre from here.
No Illegal Activity
Many gambling laws in 2004 were very outdated, and there was certainly nothing pertaining to the more modern technology that was becoming available. This made the case a complex one.
Although the gang were arrested and questioned, they were never charged because it was decided that they hadn’t actually done anything illegal!
The law that most closely related to what they had done was written in 1875 and simply declared that no “unlawful devices” should be used, but since the gang were not actually tampering with the game or using anything illegal to beat it, they were in the clear.
Amazingly, the casino had to pay them the rest of their winnings, so the gang got away with over £400,000 each assuming they split it three ways.
Adding insult to injury, the Hungarian woman was actually on a worldwide casino blacklist having been caught trying something similar in the Middle East, so if the Ritz had cottoned onto this when they let her in, it would never have happened.
The Ritz has never officially commented on the scam, no doubt they wanted the story buried as deeply and as quickly as possible, not that it matters now as the casino closed its doors for good during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.