Skimming, the undocumented, illegal transfer of small amounts of money from a casino as a means of tax evasion is often the stuff of Hollywood movies. The 1995 film Casino is a semi-fictitious account of one of the USA’s most famous cases of this.
The skimmed cash is often used to fund various crime activities, and the nefarious practice often occurred in what should be the most secure room of all in the casino – the money room.
This was something uncovered by the FBI, and handed over to the US Department of Justice in May 1963. The Skimming Report was compiled after the FBI bugged casino money rooms, and explained how relatively small amounts of casino profits, before tax, were being sent to crime families and outfits across America.
No action could be taken against those involved, however, because bugging itself is illegal.
Various Methods of Skimming
Mobsters walking out of casino money rooms with bags of money before any profits are entered into the casino books is just one method of skimming.
There have been cases where casino staff rigged games played by members of crime syndicates, as well as cases where slot machines and other games have been tampered with, to ensure unfair game results.
It has even touched the world of horseracing and greyhound racing betting. Rather than races being fixed, it was the computer betting systems that were tampered with.
Argent, Stardust and Skimming
The famous US skimming case that inspired Hollywood happened in the 1970s, and involved four casinos owned by the Las Vegas-based Argent Corporation.
The casinos owned by the company included the Fremont Hotel and Casino, the Marina Hotel’s casino, the Hacienda Hotel and Casino, and the Stardust Resort and Casino, which gave Vegas one of its most famous signs.
Argent owner Allen Glick appointed Frank Rosenthal as the Stardust manager shortly after he purchased it, using a loan from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, a front for a notorious crime family. While Rosenthal was the manager, the casinos were actually controlled by several organised crime families, who ran a skimming operation that saw between $7 million and $15 million siphoned from the casinos and into crime.
Those involved included the Milwaukee crime family’s Frank Balistrieri and his sons, the Kansas City crime family’s Carl Civella, and the Chicago Outfit’s Jackie Cerone, Joseph Aiuppa, Anthony Spilotro, and Joseph Lombardo.
Glick turned witness after denying any wrongdoing, and was granted immunity from prosecution when the criminals involved were brought to justice.
Skimming in Macau
Skimming is by no means confined to the USA. A form of it known as side-betting reported plagues casinos in Macau.
Macau, the epicentre of gambling in China, is reported to have lost more than HK$40 billion in tax revenue, and more than HK$100 billion in winnings in five years to the practice.
In a South China Morning Post report, senior casino executives estimated that the practice was estimated to be anywhere between 20 per cent and 200 per cent of the officially reported VIP gaming market.