Years ago, upon returning from a gambling-related trip, I found my home burglarized and most of my bankroll stolen. Let me tell you it is a very scary experience that certainly does leave one feeling violated, angry and guilty all at once. The angry and violated feelings are easy to understand but the guilt comes in when you beat yourself up enough by asking, "How could I let this happen?" So in an effort to satiate my remorse, I will explain why I think I was a target, what precautions I had already taken, and what further steps could have prevented this. I hope some of you can learn from my little disaster.
I live in an upscale neighborhood that does not have much crime. Often I don't even lock my door if I'm not going to be out for long. The responding police officers indicated that there had been no recent incidents in my area. In the distant past when there were they were usually break-ins by teenagers or more infrequently those on drugs and desperate for anything they could get their hands on. The intruder(s) in my house came in looking specifically for my cash. They did not take any stereo equipment or computers. They shuffled through and then left my checkbooks and credit cards but took the change out of my jar. They threw aside watches and even left a diamond that I had recently purchased sitting in its box on my desk. They spilled out sock drawers and rummaged through closets looking for hiding places until they found the cash. In consulting with the police we determined they were very specific and focused, extremely careful not to take anything that could be traced to them even if there was some opportunity cost. Certainly it was somebody who knows who I am and that I carry cash.
After having some time to reflect on it, I consider this incident to be casino related. I don't wish to go into detail as to why, but I have eliminated most other sources. My best guess is that the perpetrator was someone or an accomplice to someone connected with the one or two local casinos where I am a known high-roller (both first name and last.) Of course, my name is known and spread due to the casinos’ demands for identifying me as a player. This particular outlet requires (at least they claim it is a requirement) that a patron’s driver's license be scanned in order to get a players card. So, after a period of time most everyone knows that I am a higher stakes poker and blackjack player and I'm sure they have a sense that I work from a fairly large pool of money. Eventually random dealers started calling me by name even though I had never introduced myself to them. At a certain point I no longer had to present a card upon buy-in and security no longer checked my ID at the door as I was a "known player." The player tracking system did not seem to be a very safeguarded thing so the end result is that most player club reps, dealers, floor personnel, dual-rates and security guards had access to my full name, address, date of birth, and a copy of my signature (since my license was scanned.) Coupled with this was the knowledge that I have a lot of cash. Does this situation sound familiar to anyone? Most everyone here?
Here are some of the steps that I had taken to protect myself:
1) The address on my driver's license goes to my mailing address and not my physical residence. No reason for anyone other than the authorities, close friends, and family to know where I physically live.
2) I am very careful that I am not being followed home late at night from a casino.
3) I played anonymously or gave a fictitious name if playing at a location I did not frequent very much. Comps for 30-60 minutes of play are not worth giving up my information.
4) I did not tell other players my full name even when asked. No reason for them to know it in a casino setting.
5) I refused to give rides to or leave the premises with other players when asked (yes, this comes up every now and then).
6) I never lent money to other players.
7) I never conspired to cheat any casino or player nor did I cheat on my own.
8) I don't pick up hookers or strange women in casinos (although I have been known to date one or two women after they became known to me which is still not entirely safe).
Here's where I went wrong. I'm sure more can be added to the list:
1) I played under and become known under my real name and date of birth.
2) When I moved last year the phone company screwed up and put my phone number and address as "published" instead of the "non-published" status the same number had at my previous address. Apparently they screwed up the order and I did not catch it. I opened up the phone book right after the break-in and sure enough, there’s my phone number and residential address. That’s probably how they found me.
3) I would occasionally let it leak in casual conversation and sometimes specifically say that “I’m going to Las Vegas next week" or wherever.
4) I had bought a safe but did not complete the installation before I went out of town. So I had an uninstalled safe sitting in my basement that I could have put the money in. What timing.
5) I underestimated the desperation of those who hang out in casinos and those employed by casinos. For instance, I ignored and dismissed rumors about a dealer who was about to be fired as soon as his conviction for breaking into houses was handed down. He was going to lose his gaming license and go to jail. It still may be unrelated but it made me realize that casino employees are not as infallible and trustworthy as the pit or player’s card personnel or anyone else who demands your ID will lead you to believe. As a matter of fact, many of them are just plain crooks who haven’t been caught. Why do you think the casino spends so much in resources watching them?
Ok, so going forward I am taking these measures:
1) Limit play under my real name. More on this below.
2) Limit the amount of cash kept on hand (obviously).
3) Limit others’ knowledge of my whereabouts or time-frames
4) Install a security system and upgrade the security features of my house (motion lights, security doors etc.)
5) Consider keeping a firearm for protection against home invasion. I"m not a big fan of this but since I am already a target and they got such a big score the first time around there is no reason not to think they will be back. Even if I don't keep as much cash, they won’t know that.
6) Not only install a hidden safe, but also install a "dummy" safe which may appears easier to find and carry off. That way they may miss the main score.
One of the more controversial items in this list of countermeasures is going to be playing using an alias. In my state, it is a misdemeanor to even possess fictitious identification; it’s a felony to use one with intent to fraud. However, I seriously doubt I would be convicted of even a misdemeanor if I could use this incident as background and prove that I am only using a "fake ID" to gamble anonymously for my own protection. The ends may very well justify the means in this case. It may be worth the risk to me.
There is also the possibility of a legal name change. It is something that most players don't think they will have to deal with but my example may make them think twice. People have been harmed, robbed and burgled for much less than you think. The paperwork and proceedings may be worth the hassle.
The other alternative is, of course, to play anonymously and turn down all the comps. This will probably also produce a quicker back-off but at this point, I don’t care. A back-off is nothing compared to this.
In summary, please be aware of who you are sharing yourself with. Have your loved ones think twice before they present private information, not just anyone in a casino but those in any sort of business. Does a Radio Shack dealer really need to know where you live? Is the manager at Great Clips really going to need to give you a call about your haircut? Please think of me and my peril the next time you are about to pull your ID out and hand it over to the $12/hour employee on the other side of the counter.
WRX: You make an excellent point about the danger of casino personnel learning the identity of anyone who carries a lot of cash. As a practical matter, it's going to be very hard to protect yourself from exposure to this, if you want to take advantage of comps.
Unfortunately, there are many, many people who would be willing to take big risks to get at your cash if they saw you flash even a couple of thousand. And the risk taken breaking into someone's home may not be that high. In my city, the police basically do nothing about burglaries, and a smart burglar won't leave much evidence. Criminals have their networks, just like players. In any given casino, any one of dozens of employees with knowledge of your identity and habit of carrying cash might turn out to have relatives in your city, thousands of miles away, and then you might have a problem. Securing our cash and looking out for our personal safety can both be troublesome issues.
LV Bear: Handymn wrote that he underestimated the desperation of those who hang out in casinos and those employed by casinos.
I have often posted about not liking the constant harassment from many casinos for ID and other personal information. Casinos certainly are not trustworthy with your personal information. Just look around and see some of the lowlifes employed in casinos. Imagine what their families, friends, and associates must be like.
Unfortunately, to continue milking the casino beast at maximum capacity, some compromises have to be made with your personal safety. I personally draw the line at scanning or photocopying of ID. I simply refuse to allow it, except for copying ID's when a CTR is generated. Even then I don't believe the casino has a legal right to copy the ID; just the right to see it and write down the information as a condition of paying me. But I compromise in CTR situations for expediency and wanting to avoid some idiotic casino employee from generating a Suspicious Activity Report over me asserting my legal rights.
Obviously, a big error was made by your phone company. It would be interesting to explore if you have a basis for legal action against it. A hard case to prove, of course, but it might bring public attention to the problem, and the phone company might settle to have you go away. I hope you'll check with your attorney about it.
I am particularly sensitive to the cash in the house problem because of the murder of a friend years ago over cash in his house. But there is no way to avoid keeping a reasonable amount of cash in the house if you want to be able to move quickly to exploit unusual short-term opportunities in casinos. These opportunities do not always present themselves during banking hours.
I have often pestered friends to be careful handling the large sums of cash most of us carry around on a daily basis. As you pointed out, casinos are full of desperate people, both patrons and employees. The stupidity of the government's refusal to circulate bills larger than $100 adds to our safety problem. It'd be less conspicuous and faster to cash out, say ten $500 bills than fifty $100 bills. But given the government's desire to control cash, I doubt if we'll see larger bills in circulation in the foreseeable future.
I'll add to Handymn’s list of safety practices in casinos the following: Besides other advantage players who have been vetted by those you know and trust, do not trust anyone you meet in a casino under any circumstances. Assume everything anyone in a casino tells you is a lie and is intended to harm you. Do not divulge accurate personal information. Refuse to show ID as much as is reasonably possible. Refuse scanning or copying of your ID as much as is reasonably possible. Do not pick up women in casinos, hookers or otherwise. Do not become too friendly with any casino personnel or patrons. Do not, do not, do not, do not. Sad that our society has come to this, but that's the way it is. Mind your own business; be extremely aware of your surroundings, don't antagonize anyone if it serves no AP purpose. Try to be as invisible as possible. Paranoid? Maybe. Longer life expectancy? Definitely.
Suth’n Gent: A big problem is serious AP's can't play much at only a few casinos for very long at high stakes with a strong game without being booted. To maximize earnings, they must travel and spread play out over a lot of locations. So let's say one plays a rotation of 50 casinos. If you keep practically all chips instead of cash on hand, that means about 98% of your bankroll is tied up in foreign chips and not readily available for use in the current casino.
I hoard a lot of chips at the beginning of a trip, but it's mostly to avoid CTR ID hassles on later sessions. I generally cash out near the end of the trip before leaving a venue, and that cash funds the play at the next venue. I'll sometimes carry chip inventory home if I know I'll be making another trip there soon or had a big enough win late in the trip that it was hard to cash out without showing ID. But the bottom line is using chip inventory as a near-complete substitute for cash generally isn't viable, and wouldn't eliminate all one's risks even if it was viable otherwise.
For a lot of us, there just isn't much way around having to have a lot of cash readily available. For any cash you need to keep at home, I prefer a safe anchored in concrete. Less desirable is one anchored into wood framing or something similar. Under no circumstance would I rely on any kind of cash box or unanchored safe small enough to be carried or wheeled out by a few strong guys, nor rely on a good hiding spot. You get what you pay for on alarm systems. There are some cheap but pretty worthless systems out there and there are very good systems, generally for more money. Consider a second independent system to monitor the safe and area immediately around it separately from the rest of the house. Also, plan for the possibility of an attempted robbery at gunpoint and have panic buttons in strategic places in addition to taking other precautions.
Originally published on bj21.com Green Chip, edited for this format.