The Sting Portrayed Life of Con Men, See Real Tools Used At Nevada State Museum

Jul 31, 2018 3:08 AM

Do you remember the 1973 movie “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford? It was a fabulous flick based on the real life cons of brothers Fred and Charley Gondorff, and won seven of 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

In the movie Newman and Redford perpetrate a very complex horse betting scam on their “mark,” a mob boss, to cheat him out of a large sum of money; definitely a gutsy and dangerous idea.

In real life cons are everywhere, as evidenced by those crazy phone calls and emails we all get about someone in Zimbabwe wanting to share their millions with us or the threat from the “IRS” about “imminent arrest” if we don’t immediately take action.

Businesses are also targeted, especially casinos as many swindlers think they are an easy “mark” and, after all, that is where the money is. These cheaters often use special devices and paraphernalia to help them in their quest to amass as much of the casino’s money as possible.

But good things don’t last forever and these nefarious souls are eventually caught and forced to suffer the legal consequences of their actions, and their special devices usually end up in the evidence and archives storage of the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Enforcement Division or in the hands of private collectors.

Some of these artifacts are actually quite interesting and thanks to the Enforcement Division and Theodore Whiting, a private collector and member of the Casino Collectibles Association (CCA) and Museum of Gaming History (MoGH), you now have a chance to see a large collection on loan to MoGH and displayed at the Nevada State Museum.

To find out a bit more about this display we contacted Jim Follis, Board Member of MoGh and CCA vice president. He explained that the Cheater Devices display case is one of five large display cases at the Nevada State Museum, Springs Preserve and each case is themed differently with memorabilia and collectibles from Nevada casinos and slot route businesses.

The Cheater case, Jim told us, is filled with 27 cheating devices and paraphernalia items, including two monkey’s paws, four kickstand devices, stringed coins, loaded dice, gaffed dice, a remote viewer wristwatch to read cards passing through a the dealer’s shoe, Frankenstein currency and more.

That is some very strange sounding stuff. An internet search tells us a monkey’s paw, used by slot cheats, is made of flexible material and has a “claw” on one end. It was inserted into the payout coin chute to make the machine pay out more than it should. The kickstand was also used on slot machines to trick it into paying a jackpot or adding play credits.

If you want to know more about these odd sounding items, which date from about 1980 to 2000, head to the Nevada State Museum. The artifacts will be on display through Sunday, Sept. 2, though there are plans to extend the exhibit through mid-December.

MoGH is an educational project of the CCA, an IRS approved, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization; and they have several other gaming related displays around town at the El Cortez and Plaza casinos and the NEON and Mob museums. For more information visit their website

See you around town.

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