Macau Fraudsters Bilked Casino for $580K with Baccarat Cold Decks

Estimated read time 3 min read

Five employees of an unnamed casino on Macau’s Cotai Strip are accused of orchestrating a scam involving stacked baccarat decks that bilked the venue out of HKD4.54 million (US$581,498).

A baccarat game underway in Macau, pictured. The gang conspired with casino employees to access new decks of cards, which could then be stacked to manipulate games. (Image: VOA News)

On May 25, Macau’s judiciary police arrested eight individuals on suspicion of involvement in the scheme. One was a dealer, two were pit supervisors, and two others were pit managers, according to a police news release. One of the remaining three had a background in the junket industry.

Investigators believe the casino personnel were recruited by an organized crime group and that additional conspirators remain at large.

Messing with Decks

The casino employees are accused of removing brand new decks of playing cards from the storage room, which were then passed to their accomplices. In a hotel room at the casino, the conspirators would rearrange the order of the deck into a sequence that would be known to members of the group.

The “cold” deck would then be returned to the casino workers to be placed on a baccarat table, ready for use by the compliant dealer.

A prearranged or stacked deck is also known as a cold deck because it would be cold to the touch during poker games, having been switched into the action by sleight of hand. Smart gamblers would pay attention to the temperature of the cards to avoid being cheated.

Once the deck was in place at the gaming table, conspirators were able to gamble, increasing their bets when they knew it would be advantageous to do so.

It’s not clear how the casino discovered the existence of the conspiracy, which is suspected of occurring at least twice, on March 29 and May 5. The criminal group paid the casino workers the equivalent of between US$22K and US$64K for each deck preparation, according to police.

Casino Fraud Spikes in Macau

The news came as Macau’s Security Secretary Wong Sio Chak reported a surge in crime in the city in Q1 2023, driven by increased visitation to the city as the casino sector continued its economic revival.

Casino fraud, usually linked to illegal money exchanges, was the most frequently investigated crime, accounting for 21.7% of the total, while loansharking and telecommunications fraud were also on the rise.

However, there was a marked decrease in other major crimes, including serious violence, compared to the pre-pandemic period, Wong said.

More than 8.8 million people travelled to the gambling hub in Q1. That’s over 1.8 times the comparable figure for 2023.

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