Money and Madness

A high roller scammed the casino out of $33-million.
A high roller scammed the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia  out of $33-million.

By Judy Berman

Few can resist the siren call of the one-armed bandits as they step off their planes into the Las Vegas airport.

Passengers are bombarded with the jangle of bells, the whirring of machines and the occasional payout of coins tumbling into the trays. They have to run the gantlet of one-armed bandits before they can even pick up their luggage

Some stop awhile to play just for luck. A rare few might win the jackpot. Others hunger for much higher stakes.

The scoundrels are always looking for an angle to beat the house. It looks so easy in the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia and Matt Damon.

Their score seems far-fetched. Impossible. But, several weeks ago, life imitated art. An Australian casino was taken for about $33 million by one of its high rollers. Just like the movie, he used the casino’s surveillance system in his sting.

In “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), George Clooney plays Danny Ocean. Recently released from prison, Ocean and Brad Pitt (as Rusty Ryan) recruit a team of con men, safecrackers and security experts. The 11 members plan to rob three casinos that share the same vault – the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand. All of them are owned by Andy Garcia (as Terry Benedict).

Just what are the odds of pulling off the perfect sting? (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and George Clooney)
Just what are the odds of pulling off the perfect sting? (“Ocean’s Eleven” stars: Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and George Clooney)

Ocean’s motives are personal. Benedict is dating Tess Ocean (Julia Roberts) – Danny’s ex-wife – and Danny hopes to win her back. Plus, he hopes to scam $150 million from the heist.

To pull off this caper, Ocean’s team builds an exact replica of the vault in a warehouse. This is the vault that the casino’s monitors will be watching instead of the actual one.

Clooney, a smooth operator, pulls off this caper with sleight-of-hand skills that would make an experienced magician seem sluggish and unimaginative. Power is cut across the city. The video cameras do not betray the gang’s access to the vault, and it becomes easy pickings.

Casinos are vulnerable in real life as well.

In Melbourne, the Australian Broadcasting Station (ABC) reported that a foreigner hacked into the Crown Casino’s high-tech “security surveillance system and scammed the casino for $33 million.”

From the description of the rip-off, it sounds like the thief also was channeling Goldfinger. Envision Gert Frobe (as Goldfinger) playing cards and winning hefty amounts from his unsuspecting pigeon. His secret? High above the card game, a woman was able to view the “pigeon’s” hand thru her binoculars. Then she relayed the information to Goldfinger via an earpiece that he was wearing.

This is apparently what the thief did at the Crown. Investigators suspect that the high roller and an inside accomplice gained access to the casino’s high-resolution cameras which allowed him to “have the content phoned into him via an earpiece he was wearing,” according to ABC.

The Herald Sun reports that “cheating was exposed over eight hands of cards played in a short space of time.”

The casino reportedly kicked the high roller out of the Crown’s pricey villa. He will be prohibited from returning to the casino, and the casino employee who aided in the theft has been sacked.

Some say this could have been prevented if casinos monitored for wireless transmissions.

Crown officials are hopeful that they can recover a significant amount of the money stolen during this scam. Las Vegas-based casino consultant Barron Stringfellow said that’s unlikely “if the thief was able to leave the property with the windfall,” according to an MSN News report.

The odds are not in the casino’s favor.

Video – Movie Trailer for “Ocean’s Eleven” with George Clooney and Brad Pitt

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or
earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original

Photo – Ocean’s Eleven – Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and George Clooney on a Dec. 7, 2001,  tour of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The trio, along with Julia Roberts and Andy Garcia, visited the base to show their appreciation for U.S. troops overseas. Photo taken by Airman 1st Class Tanaya M. Harms

Photo: Crown Casino – Melbourne, Australia – taken by Adam,J.W.C.

Video and story – High roller stole $33 million from Crown Casino in Australia, similar tactics used in movie “Ocean’s Eleven”

Crown casino high-tech heist – Herald Sun

Crown casino rocked by betting scam – ABC

Crown casino sting … 7 news

    1. My Mom used to play the slots and often was very lucky. Kate, the only gamble I like to take with my money is on clothes. Will it look as good on me as it did the model? Just when will it go out of fashion. 🙂

      1. Yeah, I lose that gamble too but it doesn’t stop me from buying. Just finishing up my spring cleanout. I finally put out a raincoat that had coupons from 1999 in the pocket!

        note from earthrider to Kate:If the clothes remain in fashion before I get out of the store, I consider myself “lucky.” 🙂

  1. AA Hubby and I seldom go to casinos, but when we do I always get suckered into dropping $20 on the 25 cent slots. That’s my limit. Big stakes! I lose it all every single time, and go through a range of emotions as I get ahead a little, lose a bit, get ahead again, and then watch it all go down the drain. I can’t imagine how someone pulling off a heist like that keeps their cool.

    1. Until several years ago, this was my experience to a T, AA. I’ve decided that Lady Luck and I parted ways years ago – when it came to the slots. So, no more.

      I do not have a poker face and that would be a dead give away to security. 🙂

  2. I won fifty dollars on my first 20 cents of a nickle machine once. I left right after I collected it. I’ve never gambled since and that was over 15 years ago.

    1. Deb, you just reminded me of a windfall I won many years ago. I spent less than $5, won $150. My husband and I left immediately and spent part of it on dinner. That’s the most I’ve ever won. Like AA, I set a limit of $20 and put it on the nickle slots. I typically lost it all – but, that one day, I was extremely lucky.

      1. That’s really fun when that happens, Judy! Many people don’t know how to quit when their ahead, but not you and me. We both know that’s not going to happen twice. Glad to know you came out ahead too, and had a nice dinner.
        I think we ended up using ours for gas…it was much needed.

        You have a Happy Easter weekend, Judy! 🙂 xo

        note from earthrider to Deb:I hope that you also have a Happy Easter. Your art and messages are wonderful.

    1. Too many of them are just smoke-filled rooms and people throwing away money. But, some are glamorous, Kate. They contain tables I couldn’t afford to sit at. (Well, let’s just say I wouldn’t play that much money on one hand – let alone spend in a whole night.) 🙂

  3. I have to admit I only take a small amount of ‘playing’ money to a casino. It’s whaty I regard as the fee to watch the mesmerising stuff. Then I wander off and do something else.

      1. One visit, a group of us were playing while we waited for the show we had really come to see. I had finished my speding money and was wandering around. I stood behind one of pur party who was playing poker against a machine and gave him advice.he won, enough to buy us all dinner and drinks afterwards 😉

        note from earthrider to SidevieW:
        That’s the way to do it. We did something similar at a slots machine closer to home. Glad you scored and had some fun with the winnings.

  4. I went to Foxwoods once. Couldn’t stand the second-hand smoke hanging around the slot machines. To be honest, I was bored pretty quick. I never win anything. But as for the movie Ocean’s 11 (and 12…etc) We love those. I’ve seen the first one about 100 times. Fascinating that a heist can be pulled off in this day and age though what with all the technology out there.

    1. The smoke is intense for non-smokers. There are sections in Vegas, as I recall, that are smoke free. But I’d rather watch the action at the movies, and “Ocean’s Eleven” is a fun movie with top-notch actors.

  5. Wow! He was able to scammed $30 million. I thought that only happens in the movies. I’m not really a fan of casinos. I always loose and I don’t like losing. Ha,ha, ha. Great post.

    1. So, Island Traveler, you can live vicariously via this sting. Not as exciting as making off with $30 million, but a lot less dangerous. Unlike that guy, you can draw comfort from the fact that you won’t have to spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder for those who want their money back. Glad you enjoyed this. 🙂

  6. Those religious minded amongst us might opine that the Casinos indulge in sinful activities and this is just desserts.Sinful or not, all businesses and commercial activities run the risk of fraud.So long as windows of opportunities are visible to the unscrupulous, money would be swindled.Can we accept this as reality without getting hot and bothered? It is then that we can determine the way forward.


    1. Your point about the risks is well taken, Shakti. But, if I were out $30 million thru unscrupulous means, I’d be hot and bothered. 🙂 Let’s face it, I’d be ticked off if I were out $30 which is why I don’t gamble. Although, I confess, I did try my luck a few times.
      Thank you for your presence.

  7. Very interesting, Judy. I’m sure the casino will not have to close because of this security breach. They’ll just make up the money on the next few people who come along.

    1. Right, Paprika. While $30-mil is not chump change, I’m sure they’ll be looking for ways to recoup their dough. There’s always their hotels, shops, restaurants and shows. That’s where we spend our money when we make our annual visit to see my brother. (My folks also lived there.)

  8. Loved that movie Judy, not the sequel so much. I have tried my luck twice just for fun! Won 400 Swiss Francs (yes that long ago!!) in Monaco and lost 20 HK$ in Macau 🙂

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