Watch Your Cash
Judith, a computer support technician from Simi Valley, Calif., was
on her best roll ever in Las Vegas. She had parlayed her $500 bankroll
into $7,000, mostly at craps, and was trying for more at a hot table in
a downtown casino.
"I had my purse on the rack underneath the chip rack," said
Judith, who asked us not to use her last name. "And I was keeping
my knee against it."
As is often the case at a craps table where the numbers are hitting
and players are cheering, people were pressing against Judith trying to
get in on the action. While her attention was riveted on the dancing
dotted cubes, the purse disappeared. Judith noticed it after she
"colored up" -- changed smaller-denomination chips for larger
ones -- and reached down for her bag.
"My heart just dropped. You just don't believe it," she
said. "If it hadn't been for the money that I won, it would have
been worse. That cushioned it a little."
Unfortunately, Judith's experience is hardly unique. Travelers
anywhere have to be careful to protect their cash and belongings, but a
casino can be particularly treacherous territory.
Money is changing hands at a feverish pace. Cash is lying around in
buckets of coins or as piles of chips. Then, of course, there is the
mesmerizing spell that gambling can cast, creating a distraction that
becomes a crook's accomplice.
Jim Blair, executive director of security at the Mirage in Las Vegas,
and Danny Wright, director of security at Caesars Atlantic City, have
seen it all too often.
"The interesting thing is that people feel safe here in Las
Vegas," Blair said. "And that feeling is justified. People are
relatively safe here. They're walking around with $10,000, $15,000 in
their pockets believing there's safety in numbers. But it doesn't take
much to become that one case."
Even with the ubiquitous cameras that watch casino floors and
patrolling security personnel, casino patrons are vulnerable to packs of
well-rehearsed thieves. Perhaps the most common casino ruse is the
"distract and grab." One thief tosses a couple of coins or
chips on the floor and asks the victim whether they are his. While the
target bends over, the thief's partner grabs a bucket of coins or lifts
a fistful of chips.
"Sometimes, they'll actually hit you in the ankles with the
coins, and your first reaction is to look down," Wright said.
Both security experts have suggestions for thwarting crooks.
Keeping a thick rubber band around a wallet makes it tougher for a
pickpocket to slip it out. A wallet also is safer in a front pocket than
in the back.
- Slot-machine players should keep their accumulated
cash as credits in the machine until they are ready to cash out. If
a player does have a pile of loose coins, the money is safer in the
machine's tray than in a bucket where a thief easily can snatch it
- Patrons with purses should keep them on their laps
rather than on the floor or wedged between slot machines, where a
thief on the other side can reach them.
- If chips begin to pile up, exchange them for a
higher denomination and put them away securely.
Judith, whose purse was recovered in the rest room of another casino
but minus the cash, now knows what she'll do if she ever scores big
again: change the cash into traveler's checks or put it in the hotel's
safe at the front desk.
"I've just never won that much again to do it," she said.
Some casinos have special hooks that slide under the padded armrest
at a blackjack table. Patrons can wrap the strap of a purse around the
hook and have their bags in front of them. Not all casinos offer the
contraption, but it pays to ask. Folks who regularly visit casinos might
consider investing in a travel blazer that has zippered inside pockets.
They're made for men and women and found in travel-wear catalogs.
|"While Las Vegas and Reno casinos are among the country's
safer tourist destinations - Vegas has cut its tourist-related
crime total to less than half of what it was four years ago -
the simple fact is, well, theft happens.
"…The latest threat to Las Vegas tourists is a Big
Apple export - three-card monte games.
"…Three card-monte is a shell game using playing
cards. Find the ace and win. Unlike the gambling games inside
casino walls, it's a scam.
"…So, if you're Vegas bound, -don't bet money outside
of a casino.
"…As true as it may be that theft happens, it's
equally true that there are easy steps you can take to avoid
going from visitor to victim. Here are a few tips:
"-Minimize the amount of cash you hold at any time.
"…If you're among the fortunate few who win
substantial payouts, ask the casino to give you a cashier's
check instead of hard currency.
"…-Don't carry a purse when you go gambling. Fanny
packs are safer, but only when you leave yours strapped around
your waist at all times. The best idea is to keep everything in
…You're doing well at the video poker game and filling your
bucket with bucks. Suddenly, somebody next to you drops her
coins. Change flies to the floor at your feet.
"…Don't glance down even for a second. Chances are
that the `fallen' coins were tossed there to distract you while
an accomplice makes off with your change bucket.
"…It's not restricted to the slot banks; never take
your eyes off your chips at the gaming tables.
"- It's best, when sitting at the slots, to keep that
bucket between your legs. Do not place it between slot machines;
another trick is to reach through from the bank of machines
behind yours and grab it.
"…- Vegas is a mecca for pickpockets. -Don't
accommodate them. Keep your wallet in your front pocket, wrapped
in a thick rubber band that prevents it from sliding out
|MORE SAFETY TIPS
- When your luggage is in your possession, treat it
as if it were GOLD. Never
leave these items unattended.
- Carry travelers checks, instead of large amounts
of cash. Only carry what you will need for the day
(or evening). Leave all your valuables, such as
credit cards, jewelry or airline tickets, in the
room safe. Write down your
traveler check and credit card numbers and place this
information in your room safe.
- Be alert. If you are in a crowded area, carry your
purse (wallet) close to you and keep a firm grip on
it. Do not leave purses (handbags or cameras)
on the back of chairs, under tables or restroom hooks.
- Keep track of your hotel key. You may want to
return your key to the front desk while you are out.
Close you hotel room securely, even if you are going
for ice. Ask a security officer to escort you to
your room if you have lost
- Use automatic teller machines in well-lighted
areas of the hotel you are
staying in. Walk in pairs or groups whenever possible.
- Make sure your family or friends have contact
numbers for you while you are in the Las Vegas area.
Keep in touch with them and tell them where you are going.
- Look for the VIVA patrol if you need directions or
other assistance. The VIVA Patrol (Visitor
Information, Visitor Assistance) is part of the
LVMPD*s volunteer program. VIVA members wear bright
yellow shirts with the VIVA logo as well as caps and
can be found walking in pairs along the Strip,
Fremont Street and McCarran International Airport.
- Stay alert and trust your instincts.
If you see suspicious people loitering
near your hotel room or auto mobile do not approach or confront them .
Report any suspicious activity to the hotel, a police
officer, a security
officer, or hotel staff member immediately.
- In crowded areas or in situations
where crowds are expected (such as show lines, buffet area, bus stop,
baggage carousel etc.) be aware of your valuables. Keep your purse or luggage
close to your body. In situations
as these, it may be wise to
carry any monies in your front pocket or use a secured "fanny pack."
- If you are vacationing with young
children, the same rules apply. Instruct
them to never talk to strangers or open doors without
first knowing who it is. Make
sure they know the name of the hotel, the phone and room number. The Las Vegas
Metropolitan Police Department does use
a 9-1-1 system so be sure your
children are familiar with it in case they become lost or separated.
- Three Card Monte, a game played with cards on the
street or sidewalks (shell game) is a losers game. YOU
WILL NOT WIN. The persons are in
essence stealing your money. There are
"shills" (persons who appear to be playing
and winning at the game are actually involved in the
scam) who will entice you to play because they win so
easily. Remember, they are in on the scam. If you
play, you will become a victim and because it is
illegal you may get arrested.