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Ethical Action

Ethical Action

When I was a dealer in Atlantic City in the late 1970s and early ’80s, I saw a lot of unethical behavior by casino executives. After spending some time as a blackjack dealer (a long time!), I became a baccarat dealer and was promoted to deal in the busiest pit in the city at the time. In those days, Atlantic City was a boomtown. Millions of dollars crossed the tables in that pit every day, and some of it was what we’ll call ill-gotten gains.

Now, the baccarat pit was dark, and had many columns creating different segments. Back in its recesses stood a phalanx of blackjack tables that were usually busy, but in the daytime, it was quiet. It was during those times certain characters, escorted by top-level casino executives, would show up with small suitcases. They would be filled with money and the process of a “buy in” would begin. I remember, one day I counted out $500,000, and passed the chips off to the player, who played one hand (for $500) and cashed in.

Now, to be clear, while I think this was clearly unethical, at the time, it was not illegal. It was the days before money laundering laws were put into place, or the “$10,000 rule” as we called it then, which required casinos to record and obtain

identification of players who engaged in transactions in excess of that figure.

In another event, I was brought in specifically to deal to a “rich” Canadian gambler. He didn’t look rich, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. But he was the fastest baccarat player I ever saw, and there were only a few dealers who could keep up with him, playing $10,000 to $50,000 a hand. It turns out, he was a bank clerk from Toronto who was embezzling money from his bank and gambling at the casino. The incident was later made famous by a movie, Owning Mahowny, which I haven’t seen yet. I wonder who played my part. But because the casino failed to investigate the source of his funds, a severe penalty was charged, with the casino forced to close for two days.

Neither of these events was technically illegal, but they were certainly unethical and no doubt, 30 years later, are today illegal.

These days, there are enough rules and regulations to control these kinds of things, but there are still many ethical issues that need to be addressed.

We have many examples, some of which are emanating from Macau these days. Questions about the VIP operators, the effectiveness of the Macau regulations and the commitment to anti-money laundering programs abound. Are background checks even conducted there? In many ways, Macau regulations are like Nevada regulations in the 1950s and ’60s. While many jurisdictions understand and accept that Macau is going through these regulatory growing pains, others won’t wait.

In many areas of the world, gaming regulations are being scaled back because of the economy. While the casino industry applauds this move for the most part, there needs to be a combined effort between the industry and government to ensure that while unnecessary regulations are eliminated, integrity does not suffer.

And of course it’s in the casino industry’s best interests to focus on integrity. If the games aren’t secure and the operators aren’t squeaky clean, the industry is at risk.

And as we move into the legalization of online gaming, ethics become that much more important. There is so much potential for abuse (which we’ve seen clearly by the illegal operators), if major licensed casino companies become involved, it’s important that the operations and regulations are transparent and fair.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest there’s an absence of ethics in the gaming industry today. There’s not. In fact, most of the gaming executives I know are completely ethical, almost to a fault. But we’re entering a new phase in the industry, by inviting in online partners and operating in a financially depressed market. The pressures to do something that may be considered unethical are growing, and hard to resist sometimes if the payoff seems acceptable.

In my view, however, there is no payoff to conducting yourself unethically. You wouldn’t sell your soul, and in a sense, that’s what you’re doing when you lack ethics. Let’s keep gaming on the straight and narrow so we never have any questions about whether we’re doing our best for our customers, our employees and the shareholders in the enterprise.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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