New device targets slot hopper thieves

Oct 22, 2002 5:56 AM

   Even though casinos seem to be moving toward a “cashless” environment, slot cheaters who steal coins can be a problem.

   That’s where I Games Entertainment comes in with its new Protector anti-theft device.

   “Casinos need to be aware of the losses that can be incurred through coin theft through the slot machine’s hopper,” said company spokesman Michael Friedman “A casino with 2000 machines probably has a $3/4 million float that can’t be accurately accounted for. It’s possible that 90 percent of pilfered coins could go undetected.”

   I Games’ solution is a patented device that attaches to the inside of the slot machine’s door. Through it’s photoelectric technology, it can “read” when a foreign device has been inserted through the hopper’s “throat,” and thus render the machine into a “tilt” mode.

   The foreign device can be as simple as a coat hanger, even though it can very effective in tripping the hoppers’ mechanism.

   “Slot cheaters always have the element of surprise,” Friedman said, adding that they often work in small groups who divert attention from the person “jimmying” the machine.

   Friendman said that, besides a simple coat hanger, devices can range from the more sophisticated “monkey paw,” which has been around for 10 years; the slider; and the blade runner — a new device that is perhaps the most efficient yet, Friedman said.

   “Used properly, along with a skilled crew, slot cheats can steal up to $1,000 an hour,” Friedman said.

   Friedman said that casinos’ security operations are mostly focused on “counting the money and not defending the money,” which he said is what the Protector does.

   He added that casinos in Las Vegas usually just escort cheaters out the door, rather than take the time and expense to prosecute. “They usually don’t have more than a few hundred dollars in quarters when they’re caught,” he said.

   Ultimately, Friedman said, the anti-theft device should increase the casino’s drop.

   So far, I Games has contracted with Royal Caribbean Cruises to retrofit 800 slot machines with the security device, and they’ve also struck a deal with Celebrity Cruises.

   The company, located at the Hughes Center in Las Vegas, has also pitched the product to Nevada casinos, as well as slot machine manufacturers.