Stop Coin Shaving Slot Cheats!

The Coin Shaving Problem:
The right hand side quarter has had about 0.040" shaved off its diameter in order to trick the machine into paying out coins from the hopper without counting them. Most casinos have fallen victim to this scheme for emptying the slot's hopper without know it was happening. The change in coin diameter is small enough to escape casual visual detection. Simple coin comparators cannot distinguish such slight coin diameter changes and can be tricked into accepting shaved coins by "slamming" them. Shaved coins go in for credit and come out free. All IDX Coin Acceptors feature precision optical diameter measurement to prevent their acceptance in the first place!

Industry Articles On Coin Shaving

Authorities battle high-tech cheaters
Wednesday, February 21, 2001
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Criminals improve sophistication as casino slot machines make technological advances

NEWARK, N.J. -- Thieves are keeping pace with the technological advances that have revolutionized casino slot machines, gaming enforcement officials say. Regulators say the problem is widespread but have a hard time placing a dollar figure on the losses.

Although they do not track slot cheats' crimes, state police with the Division of Gaming Enforcement in Atlantic City say they recover evidence of slot cheats' work -- most often shaved coins and slugs -- almost on a daily basis.

In February 1999, for example, two people were arrested and more than 12,000 bogus slot machine tokens seized in what police said was a sophisticated scam operating in more than one Atlantic City casino.

But cheaters also try to beat the house by introducing flaws into the slot machines' computer programs or by manipulating hoppers' payouts. "There are gangs that do nothing but cheat slot machines," Sgt. Gerald Stoll, a state police detective assigned to Gaming Enforcement, told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "It can be a decent living."

Gaming enforcers say introducing a flaw -- such as causing a slot machine to hit a jackpot after a sequence of bets -- is the most difficult. Slot machines are tested hundreds of times before being placed on the casino floor for play.

Other cheats have stuck wires up coin trays to block a beam that counts coins being paid out. Still others have made money by teaching their techniques to others. Slot manufacturers have changed machines to make the wire a less lucrative trick, but cheaters have happened upon an optic device that can also block the counter beam. Like they did with the wire, slot makers are attempting machine modifications that would end the success of the optic device.

Authorities say more unconventional methods used by cheaters can sometimes help them escape detection through surveillance.

Casino "Token Shaver" Slot Cheats Arrested
Agency: State Police D/Lt. John Lessnau, Gaming Section, Southeastern CID, (313) 456-4100
July 23, 2002 Michigan Newswire

Detroit. Detectives from the Michigan State Police Gaming Section, working in cooperation with United States Customs Service personnel, have identified and arrested two subjects at the Ambassador Bridge (United States/Canada international border point of entry) for conspiring to engage in a casino-cheating scheme.


The United States Customs Service contacted the Michigan State Police, Gaming Section following the discovery of a "bench grinder" and a large amount of casino slot tokens during an inspection of a vehicle entering the United States. An MSP Gaming Section investigation revealed that the two occupants of the detained vehicle were utilizing the bench grinder to "shave" casino slot tokens for illegal slot machine play.


"Shaving" – to cut or grind the outside of edge of a slot token to reduce the diameter of said slot token for the purpose of defrauding an electronic slot machine. Specifically, the reduced sized slot token when deposited into the slot machine for play would be recognized by the slot machine’s optic mechanism as a valid credit, however, the slot machine’s coin comparitor mechanism would physically reject the slot token; thus affording the slot cheat an opportunity to continue to repeatedly deposit the same slot token(s) into the slot machine for the purpose of accumulating illegal slot credits for play.


According to investigators, one subject confessed that the other subject had been mentoring him in the technique of "shaving" slot tokens for illegal slot play for approximately one year. Both subjects were utilizing this cheating technique to defraud numerous casino venues throughout the United States. The subjects intentionally entered into the United States at the Detroit-based border for the purpose of patronizing different casino venues throughout the State of Michigan with the objective of utilizing this cheating technique to obtain monies from illegal slot play.


An inventory of the confiscated slot tokens located in the suspect vehicle determined that the two subjects were in possession in excess of eight-hundred individual casino slot tokens with approximately seven-hundred of these casino slot tokens determined to have been altered ("shaved") for illegal slot play. In addition, an assessment of the individual casino slot tokens determined that the casino slot tokens are affiliated with thirty separate casino entities located in fifteen different states including one casino located in Ontario, Canada.



of Carter Lake, Iowa



of Kansas City, Missouri


Both Nichols and Luman were arrested and arraigned on multiple felony charges including Possession of a Device to Alter the Outcome of a Gambling Game, and Conspiracy to Alter the Outcome of a Gambling Game (maximum 10 years and/or $100,000 on each count).


Shaved Coins Cheat Casinos

Gambling Magazine :

There aren’t too many places you can go on any of the local casino boats and not be spotted by a surveillance camera. Yet, some still managed to get away with theft.

They cheat the casinos out of thousands of dollars in revenue with the use of shaved coins. According to officials, shaved coins are shaved down so that they will usually fall to the coin return, thus giving the slot machine player another turn.

“Some people think it’s not a big deal, but they can amass a pretty good cache of coins. It’s theft. It’s a crime. It’s cheating the casinos. It’s cheating the citizens of Indiana,” Maj. Mark Mason, head of the Gaming Division of the Indiana State Police, said Friday.

Sometimes, however, suspected cheaters get caught. Earlier this week, the Lake County prosecutor’s office charged Wei Jian Xie with one count of theft for allegedly using shaved coins.

According to prosecutors, Xie, 40, of Chicago, was found Aug. 9 with 139 shaved coins worth $1 each on Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. It’s the second time Xie has been charged with using shaved coins. In March, he was arrested for using $149 in bogus coins on Harrah’s Casino in East Chicago.

To the untrained eye, it’s nearly impossible to point out someone using a shaved coin, Mason said. “You can walk right by someone and not know they are using shaved coins,” Mason said.

 “We have a number of different safety nets in place,” Kasley said. “We prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”

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High-Tech Slot Cheats Put New Spins on Old Scam

By JUDY DEHAVEN c.2001 Newhouse News Service  

A Nevada regulator with computer savvy, Ronald Harris was one of the best at busting slot cheats. So good that for four years, he ran his own high-tech scam undetected.

Seth Joseph Bergen's methods, police said, were more common. Bergen is accused of wagering in casinos throughout the United States with counterfeit tokens that may have been made in his Florida home.

But Dennis Nikrasch outdid them all. He perfected a talent for rigging slot machines in his garage, then went on to mastermind two schemes that netted an estimated $16 million.

Ploys to beat the house have been around for as long as gambling has existed.

Although technological advances have revolutionized the casino industry, thieves have also gone high tech, using methods that sometimes escape even the best surveillance teams.

"There are gangs that do nothing but cheat the slot machines," said Sgt. Gerald Stoll, a State Police detective assigned to New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement.

It's a problem so prolific that experts and regulators could not put a dollar amount on how much is lost each year. "It's been awhile since I heard someone pick a number," said Shannon Bybee, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas and a former Nevada regulator. "It's substantial. But there's really no way of knowing."

Patrons have spilled everything from drinks to WD40 to mercury to the gravel found in the casino ashtrays into coin slots in attempts to manipulate the machines.

Some have zapped them with electricity to shock coins into dropping. Others have tried to slip a wire up the coin tray to block the beam that counts coins as they fall out. And others slip counterfeit bills into the slot machines' bill slots.

The tools vary. And they've progressed with slot technology. But the concepts behind the cheating remain the same.

"There are three ways to cheat a slot machine," said Richard Williamson, who heads the technical services bureau for the Division of Gaming Enforcement in New Jersey. "You can introduce a flaw into the (computer) program. You can use counterfeit bills or coins, which give you better odds because now, you're playing for free. Or you can manipulate the hopper to think it's not paying out."

The first -- introducing a flaw, or "gaff" -- is the most difficult.

That's because inspectors run hundreds of tests on the machines before they place them on the casino floor.

Harris was one such inspector, until he went from protector of the public trust to its most high-profile violator.

According to testimony at his trial, Harris, who was convicted, took a computer program that checked to see whether the slot machines were functioning properly and rewrote it to cause the machines to hit a jackpot after a certain sequence of bets were made. Regulators inadvertently introduced the gaff while conducting random inspections.

Harris' downfall was his accomplice. In 1995, Reid McNeal seemed to have done the impossible while playing keno in Bally's Park Place -- he matched all eight numbers and won $100,000. The odds of guessing all eight were about one in 230,000.

McNeil drew more attention when he asked to be paid in cash and showed a driver's license that listed a different address than the one he gave when he checked into the hotel.

Investigators searched McNeil's hotel room. They found Harris.

Investigators ultimately traced nearly $50,000 in jackpots that Harris helped rig. But it could be more, since jackpots of a few hundred dollars were not documented.

Likewise, it is impossible to say how much money is lost to cheats who use fake tokens. "Some (counterfeits) are so good," Stoll said, "it's hard to distinguish them from the real ones."

What matters to the machine is the coin's metal content, size and density. Each casino uses different tokens. But that hasn't stopped the cheats. They just make more than one kind of counterfeit coin.

Bergen, the Florida man, is accused of manufacturing fake tokens similar to those used in four Atlantic City, N.J., casinos, the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut and others in the South. He was arrested last fall while allegedly betting with $10 counterfeit slot tokens inside the Tropicana Casino and Resort and is awaiting indictment.

Investigators would not say what tipped them off to Bergen. But they have ways of spotting suspects.

Gamblers who try to wager with slugs or shaved coins often hold two cups so they don't mix their winnings with the fakes they use to gamble. Then there are the yo-yo players, people who attach a string to a token and pull it out to use again after making a spin. The constant motion of slipping in a coin and pulling it out looks like they're twirling a yo-yo.

"Games have patterns," said Division of Gaming Enforcement Director John Peter Suarez. "People have patterns. People have patterns when they're playing. People have patterns when they deviate from normal patterns."

Investigators can monitor the slot machines for payout abnormalities. If detected, they review surveillance footage during the time of the hit.

Photos of suspected players are scanned into a system that can match faces to pictures of known criminals by measuring the distance between a suspect's eyes, nose and ears. A criminal can change hair color and style, wear facial hair or shave, "but the only thing that doesn't change is the space between your eyes," said Stoll.

The system sparked a controversy when used at the Super Bowl to photograph every fan in an effort to catch wanted criminals and known terrorists. But New Jersey has been using it in its casinos for three years. So far, 3,800 mugshots are logged in the database.

But getting clear pictures through the camera lens can be difficult when gangs work together.

Nikrasch headed one such gang, leading some of the most profitable ventures in slot cheat history. In the 1970s, he scammed $10 million from mechanical reel machines, got caught and spent some time in jail. He re-emerged in the 1990s, after mechanical reels gave way to video slots, and learned to beat the new games for $6 million before he was caught again.

Nikrasch worked with several accomplices. While he rigged the machine, a gang member would act as a blocker. A third person would play the game, a fourth would do final manipulation to the machine and then the game would hit.

Leaders who are especially shrewd have made money by licensing their methods to other crooks. Investigators said Orville Durham was one who sold his expertise like a business sells franchises. He made money, police said, by charging others up to $60,000 to train them to use a "monkey wire" and then took a cut of the winnings.

A wire is stuck up a coin tray to block the beam that counts coins as they are paid out. So if someone legitimately wins 40 coins, the wire could trick the machine into emptying more -- say 80 -- while the machine still registers 40.

Slot manufacturers have changed the machines to make it harder to use the wire. But cheats have discovered a new tool -- an optic device that blocks the beam.

Now, manufacturers are trying to modify the machines to prevent the optic device from working.

But it will probably be a matter of time before the cheats find a different scam.

"The ingenuity of the criminal mind," said Suarez, "is amazing."