In-home safes

Card counters and casino advantage players discuss in home safes

Blackjack professional card counters and other casino advantage players need a good way to secure the cash portion of their bankrolls while at home. Many opt for in-home safes. Here is a discussion among pro players about security measures.

wisereyes: Do you have an in-home safe? I am in the market for such a unit. I am going to hire a contractor (of course) to bolt it down. What should I expect in terms of cost for the safe and for the contractor's work?

I'm also interested in getting opinions on the security of carrying a blackjack briefcase/portfolio around. I usually leave my blackjack briefcase in the trunk of my car/rental car, though if I am going to be in my room all of the time, I sometimes bring it with me to the room if I need to do some bookkeeping and/or research. I am always nervous about leaving it in the room. Right or wrong, my view has always been that my records are safer in the trunk of my car than a casino hotel room. Consequently, I end up doing most of my bookkeeping in the car, away from casino property. I am probably unrealistically paranoid about some high-powered camera looking over my shoulder through the moonroof, filming all of my records, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

bigplayer: Security Issues for AP’s:

  1. Have a safe at home, but unless it is bolted into the ground (or actually in the ground) it's not of much value as potential thieves can yank it out. Better yet, if you are going to keep money at home, have a visible less-expensive but secure fire safe with a small amount of money and your documents in there and a well-hidden, smaller safe in the ground under a rug with your real stash. It should be hidden well enough so that not even law enforcement would easily find it if you are unlucky enough to experience a search warrant. This is if you keep substantial money at home (like chunky five figures or higher).
  2. If you play in any specific town quite often you should look into keeping a bank safe-deposit box with money and chips in it in that town so you don't have to travel or fly with substantial funds.
  3. Protect your phone and computer with passwords. Casinos like to go through your cell phone address book and find out who your associates are. You should also camouflage your cell phone entries somewhat, just in case. My cell phone is a veritable who's who but without a password it's useless to anyone.
  4. I leave the team handbook at home. I do bring a copy of Professional Blackjack, a sheet with my index numbers, travel documents, letter from my lawyer, hard copies of my actual mail offers for that trip, player cards, etc. I only bring those ID's I need for that trip; others I leave at home. If you have any special concerns and are not staying in a secure place -- a casino hotel is not secure -- leave the stuff in the car. The lawyer letter is in case of an issue with TSA or other government entity; it basically says I'm a professional gambler according to the IRS, and carry large sums of cash money from time to time in amounts occasionally in excess of $50,000, and all appropriate taxes are paid.
  5. Have a system for re-packing so that you don't forget anything. Never take out an especially-sensitive item for longer than it takes to look at it for what you need and then promptly put it back -- always in the same spot in your bag.
  6. When traveling by car, keep your money locked securely in a box or briefcase. Never consent to a search. If a policeman asks you to step out of the car, get out and close the door behind you. An open door is an invitation to snoop, and the less snooping the better.
  7. Make sure you're not being followed out of the casino if betting serious money. Don't make new friends in the casino and especially don't invite them back to your room. You don't want to get drugged, robbed, or worse. Drugging and robbing high rollers is a cottage industry among the working girls in Las Vegas.
  8. Social media sites should be locked down with "Friends Only" on all settings; don't use any applications that require you to share your data, and keep your gambling associates off your friends list and you off of theirs.

WRX: Great stuff from bigplayer, as always. He tells us so much that professionals need to know that I don't see discussed by anyone else.

Putting sensitive info on your cellular phone behind a password is one of the biggest favors you can do your friends and associates. If things go bad, you don't want to be dragging them down with you. Maybe you think you'll never be backroomed. But what if you simply lose your phone? Do you want a casino security guard to find it, and go through your text messages and phone book?

If you carry things like printouts of email messages, anonymize those, too.

Make sure that you're not on camera when sending and receiving text messages. Surveillance can and will zoom in and read the screen.

I continue to hear of cases of arbitrary cash seizures by law enforcement agencies of large sums of money being carried by AP’s. That's at least one reason to try to avoid transporting a lot of cash if you can avoid it.

I especially like bigplayer's advice to keep any sensitive item in the same place at all times. A theme could be, when traveling, protect yourself from your own future stupidity. That is, anticipate your absent-mindedness, and set up procedures for handling sensitive items that minimize the chance that you'll misplace them or leave them behind somewhere.

Putting notes and anything else you don't want the wrong people to see in the safe in your room provides security against casual snooping -- much better than leaving that stuff lying around. But hotel security staff have a way to get into your safe without knowing your combination. Try this. Call the front desk, say that you've forgotten the combination, and ask what they can do for you.

Would it be legal for hotel staff to break into your safe and go through your things without your permission or knowledge? Frankly, I'm bored by questions about what's "legal." (And I'm a lawyer.) Too many of the people in a position to harm you just don't care about what’s legal. And that definitely includes the police, even some judges.

bigplayer: Hotel security can unlock a room safe pretty quickly (in about 15 seconds). I've often found the previous guests have left it locked and I have to call security to get them to open it up. There’s never anything in there; I often joke with them that we can split any money we find inside.

The hotel room safe is safer than leaving it under the mattress, but not by as much as you would think. Housekeeping can't open it, but security can. Regular casinos don't typically go through your stuff without your presence but you really don't have any expectation of total privacy in a hotel room. They do room checks, someone can remove the Do Not Disturb sign and security can enter with housekeeping for a "turn down" or "security check" or fabricated "noise complaint" or whatever excuse they want, just to look around to see what is out in the open without actually rummaging through your bags.

Indian casinos are much nastier as they really have learned that they are pretty much above the law. Expect anything possible to happen, including casino security confiscating any chips you have, falsely claiming they were obtained by fraud or cheating or whatever. You will have to sue the tribe in their own tribal court to get them back, or hope someone from their gaming commission sees it your way. Good luck with that; consider all the cases of Indian (and commercial) casinos refusing to pay jackpots for the silliest of made-up reasons.

21forme: At my former home, I had a mid-sized safe (20 cu ft, weighed about 1200 lbs.) The best deal on safes is to buy one used from a reputable shop/locksmith that deals in them. You'll find them in most major cities. The one I bought came from a department store. it was refurbished, repainted, etc.

With installation, it cost about $1100. New, it would have been about $4000 (this was about 15 years ago -- I haven't followed prices since then). Installation involved two football player-like guys with a motorized dolly delivering it by truck, bringing it down a flight of stairs to my basement, and bolting it to the concrete slab. They also let me choose a combination of my choice and set it. Needless to say, when I moved, I didn't take the safe with me.

Do a Google search on safe ratings (Class A-C, TL15, TL30, fire rating, etc.) What you need in a safe depends on what you intend to keep in it. More important than the safe itself is keeping the fact that you have a safe a secret. The best safe in the world won't do you any good if someone is holding a gun to your kid's head, demanding that you open it.

Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.


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