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Magic Stuff

Hoodoo, Google Glass, tokoloshe...and other dark arts

Magic Stuff

Back in January, I told you about the lady in South Africa who was arrested for bilking casino players out of cash by telling them she could turn their luck around through some sort of bizarre hoodoo rituals. I remember wondering what kind of tricks she used, other than scoping the slot floors for people who look like they watch Jerry Springer.

Well, the court date came up for the lady—a self-described “clairvoyant”—so we have more details on the trickery she used to dupe some apparently brain-dead casino patrons of cash.

But first, another kind of magic: Slot-maker Bally Technologies held its annual Systems User Conference last month, an event that updates operators on the latest innovations the company is bringing to the slot floor.

As for me, being somewhat slow on the uptake of modern technology—for instance, I only recently discovered that clothes can be washed without pounding them on a stone by the river—I am particularly amazed by the new technology that comes out of this annual Bally event. I also make notes at every year’s conference on things I can subsequently lampoon in this column.

I’m sorry, Bally. It’s my job.

One of the things at the conference catching my attention was something they call “augmented reality.” The technology involves data superimposed on a video monitor or transparent screen—like the one used for “Google Glass,” those glasses that superimpose Google searches, text messages and other information right on the face of your glasses, so you can view it as you walk in front of a bus.

A lot of casinos have banned the glasses, because there’s an app that lets you take pictures by just winking. Casinos don’t like you taking pictures on the gaming floor—it’s a holdover from the old days, when no respectable person wanted to be seen gambling in mobster-run joints. (I remember people snapping pictures of me with Sam Giancana and having their cameras smashed… Good times…)

But Bally is proposing a neat use of the technology by hosts and floor people: A jackpot is hit by a loyal customer, and it pops up on the host’s glasses. In the time it takes him to walk across the floor, the host can know the player’s history, and arrive at the machine to congratulate him with his favorite drink. If a known high-roller has been on a losing streak, it pops up and the host can go offer a free dinner, a suite upgrade or some other perk to calm the guy down—again, in the time it takes to walk across the floor.

That is, unless the host walks into a wall while viewing the data. Maybe the glasses can be equipped with air bags.

There were many other intriguing nuggets of info at the conference, but back to the trial of the South African hoodoo lady I wrote about in January. The woman, 34-year-old Nancy Shanelle Naidoo (“Hoodoo by Naidoo”), was expected to plead guilty to more than 50 charges of fraud after preying on customers’ superstition with “dark arts” to steal their money and jewelry.

According to court records, in exchange for cash and jewelry, Naidoo offered “good luck charms” that would fend off ancient demons responsible for bringing bad luck.

So, all this time, it was ancient demons that brought me bad luck in the casino. Who knew?

Ah, but warding off demons was only half of the prescription. She offered to bring players in contact with a “tokoloshe,” a mythical African spirit certain to bring luck at the roulette tables.

You know, I can never find a tokoloshe when I need one.

“Honey, I’m heading to the casino. Have you seen my tokoloshe?”

“He’s helping Junior with his homework.”

What is most incredible is that all this actually worked with customers to the tune of more than 2 million rand—more than $193,000—in money and valuables happily handed over to Hoodoo Naidoo. In addition to cash, they gave up bracelets, necklaces, watches, luxury perfumes from Gucci and other expensive items, all in the name of expelling demons and luring the tokoloshe.

Can you imagine this happening in a U.S. casino—like, say, Resorts World in New York City? She’d get clobbered with her own good luck charms. You think ancient demons are scary? New Yorkers regularly put their fists through slots when they lose, and then eat the shards of glass for breakfast.

I’d like to relate more about gaming and the dark arts, but I’m overdue at the casino. I’m meeting a clairvoyant at the Blazing 7s machine.

Now, where’s my tokoloshe?

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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