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SkyCity employee charged in alleged scam

Published: 5:46AM Friday April 20, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Three people - one of them a SkyCity employee - have been charged with attempting to cheat a casino of more than $7000.

Bo Du, 32, worked as a roulette croupier at Hamilton SkyCity Casino when, police say, she deliberately spun her roulette wheel early - or slowly - to allow her two associates Xiaodong Lu, 27, and Zhuo Zhao, 31, to place last-minute bets as the roulette ball came to a stop.

The offending is alleged to have taken place earlier this month.

It is alleged that on April 4, Lu walked away with $1632 and eight days later she and her partner Zhao pocketed a further $5600.

Despite being remanded without plea on one charge of cheating and two of theft, a police summary of facts stated Du had made a full admission and told them she met up with the couple afterwards to collect her share of the winnings.

Lu also faces two counts of theft and one of cheating, while Zhao is charged with one count of theft and one of cheating.

The trio's appearance in the Hamilton District Court yesterday had lawyers scratching their heads as to what a charge of "cheating" entailed.

Justice Ministry figures released to the Waikato Times show there have been just seven charged with the Gambling Act offence between 2005 and 2010.

The paper has reported one similar incident in May 2007 when Jing Luo Yan, a 45-year-old chef, tried to cheat at a game of Caribbean stud poker at the Hamilton SkyCity and was convicted and fined $500.

Though rare, the recent alleged offending pales in comparison to an example from November 1998 when Tonga-based Chinese millionaire businessman Zhu Hua Yu and SkyCIty Auckland dealer Lei Zhang were convicted of cheating when Zhang used secret signals to help the punter amass $120,000 playing baccarat.

Internal Affairs gambling compliance inspector Derek Hartley said he and the Hamilton unit were still investigating and did not rule out further arrests or charges in relation to the latest alleged offending.

However, he would not comment on how frequently similar investigations took place or whether SkyCity could face sanctions.

SkyCity Hamilton general manager Arthur Pitcher refused to comment.

He refused also to discuss SkyCity's anti-corruption efforts or staff supervision policies.

It is not known whether Du has lost her job at SkyCity or how long she worked there.

SkyCity Casino has 23 playing tables, 339 gaming machines and revenues of $26.5 million - up 13.7% in the last financial year.

Du, Lu and Zhao were all remanded on bail without plea to reappear in the Hamilton District Court next month.

International cheats

Previous casino scams both here and abroad make the winnings collected by Hamilton's three alleged casino cheats look like chump change.

November 2011: Three Italians are charged with cheating at a Cannes casino after French police alleged they used special contact lenses to see invisible ink on the marked cards.

The alert was raised when the gang won NZ$76,300 in an evening of stud poker against the croupier in a night and another $10,000 in a few hours later that week.

January 2007: Two men and a woman cheated at least six London casinos out of nearly $734,000 in a hi-tech poker scam using hidden miniature cameras and earpieces. The sting involved two of the gang playing poker while their accomplice sat in a van nearby.

A tiny camera, hidden up the sleeve of one of the players filmed cards being dealt, with footage beamed live to the van via a transmitter. The poker players were then told via earpieces how to bet.

December 2004: Three gamblers who used a laser device to win over $2.73 million in two nights at a London hotel casino are let off prosecution after police say they did nothing illegal.

The laser scanner measured the speed of the roulette ball as it was released by the croupier, identified where it fell and measured the declining orbit of the wheel.

A computer calculated which section of numbers the ball would land on and dropped the odds for the gamblers from 37-1 to 6-1, with the info flashed to a mobile phone just before bets closed.

November 1998: Tonga-based Chinese millionaire businessman Zhu Hua Yu and SkyCIty Auckland dealer Lei Zhang are convicted of cheating after Zhang used secret signals to help Yu win baccarat bets totalling $120,000.

April 1998: Nevada's premier poker machine cheat, Dennis Nikrasch, who raked in millions of dollars over 22 years, cuts a deal with prosecutors for a lighter sentence in return for telling how he did it. Nikrasch and his cronies' scams brought them about US$40m (then NZ$70m) a year and left officials baffled over how they did it.

Nikrasch was convicted in 1986 of scamming US$10 million from Las Vegas casinos by rigging poker machines between 1976 and 1979. He was freed on parole in January 1991.

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