problem child


  1. A child who is particularly difficult to raise or educate, especially due to a lack of self-control and disruptive and antisocial behavior.
  2. Someone or something persistently difficult or vexing; a frequent source of trouble or annoyance.

While you should never neglect number one on the definitions above, I’d like to be clear that this article is about the second definition, and why you should never neglect them in your workplace.

Let’s start with an anecdote: 

Many years ago, I was working at a relatively small Casino operation, which suffered from a “problem child”, let’s call him “John”. 

John was a smart guy, certainly in his own mind he was far too smart to be a mere Casino Croupier, he was destined for bigger and better things. Grander things. Regrettably this attitude came out in everything that he did; so that, while technically competent enough, his customer service and interpersonal skills with customers and colleagues were near non-existent.

As might be imagined this attitude did not…endear him…to more senior staff members. John made it clear that they were not his intellectual equals and that he could do their jobs better than they themselves were doing. But, of course, people tend not to enjoy this being made clear to them and those people to whom it was made clear were in a position to retaliate. To “Teach John a lesson”.

In the particular case, what they decided upon was banishment.

Not in the sense that he was exiled from work, rather that he was exiled within work.

Back then the whole concept of Stadium Games was relatively new. The idea that one game of each type would control a number of remote betting terminals, at which the patron would play, as they would at an EGM, only the game they were playing was a real one, being operated elsewhere in the Casino. This type of gaming straddled an uneasy line between Table Games, since it was clearly a real table and a real game with a real dealer on it, and Slots, since the terminal was clearly electronic and payouts were clearly TITO’s.

Into this limbo of operational experience John was cast. 

The benefit, from the point of view of the Pit Staff and Casino Management was very clearly one of “out of sight and out of mind”. Of course, the stadium and the, in this case, Baccarat table, were actually in full-view of anyone who cared to look. But there were not part of any Gaming Pit, and, crucially, they did not interact with anyone in the Gaming Pits, nor with any other gaming staff, except for the “breaker” once every hour. 

At this point the fatal, but I would argue quite commonly made error, should be glimpsed.

Because the game was “electronic” it was safe; and indeed this was substantially correct, at least so far as the payouts went. The terminals would, indeed, faithfully pay the correct odds for the winning wagers.

But this was rather to overlook that it is not electronics that perpetrate fraud and theft.

People do that. 

It is the human element that is responsible for all of the things that we, as Surveillance and Security professionals, look for, detect and hopefully prosecute.

So, for reasons of petty revenge and to put a problem child very much out of sight and out of mind, Pit Management had exiled John to a table game attached to a new concept that they did not understand very well, but that they assumed was completely safe; and, to compound this error, because they thought the game to be safe, they did not assign any supervision. After all, why banish John if you were then going to ease his exile by giving him someone to talk with?

At this point some detail as to the setup and operation of the table in question is in order. While a new concept then, as I have said, it was admirably set up. The cards were shuffled in an MD2 auto-shuffler and two full sets of cards were provided for the table for each shift. These cards were sequentially dealt from an early “Smart-shoe”, which recognized them and transmitted this data to the terminals in the stadium. All bets had to be made before any cards were drawn. 

All the dealer had to do was to deal the tableau, follow the timer that gave people time to wager, collect the cards after each coup and press the game end button on the shoe. After each completed shoe they also had to transfer the used cards from the discard, load and unload the cards from the shuffle machine and put the shuffled cards in the shoe ready to begin dealing again.


Or, at least, it would have been, if the stages of the operation detailed above were being watched. Because if they were being watched then it could be ensured that they were being followed.

But if they weren’t being watched? 

Well, if they weren’t being watched anything could happen.

I mentioned before that John was a smart guy, this is true, I got to interview him when everything came to light and was impressed by his intelligence, as well as the size of the chip on his shoulder.

John had worked out that, with no one looking at him including, he hoped (and was correct in this hope) Surveillance, then he could do whatever he wanted. So, he concocted a scheme with a friend of his to act as the Player Agent

First, he learned how to collect the cards from a Baccarat coup so that the order was retained and, if they should be redealt, that the outcome of the coup would be the same as the previous time it was dealt. This is actually so simplistic that it can be learned, or taught, in less than five minutes.

As an example for a six card coup, it really doesn’t matter which side wins, the cards are dealt from the shoe, effectively as:  P1, B2, P3, B4, P5, B6 where the letter is the “side” Player/Banker where the card is assigned and the number is the order that the card came from the shoe.


So, we have King of Diamonds, Six of Hearts, Jack of Clubs, Four of Clubs, Seven of Clubs, Nine of Diamonds.

John would simply reverse this order when collecting the cards. This was oftentimes facilitated by pushing up the cards dealt third and fourth. An exaggerated example can be seen below. Then the cards are simply swept up starting with the King of Diamonds, then the Six of Hearts, then the Jack of Clubs and so on.

This preserves the order of the coup, so, if the cards were to be dealt again, the result would be the same.

John also noted that, because no one was watching, he didn’t actually have to shuffle the cards from the discard, if he chose not to, he could simply reintroduce them to the shoe and deal them again.

All the Player Agent needed to do then was to show up, preferably when it was quiet and John was on shift. John would, inevitably, be exiled to the Baccarat stadium. Now, all that was required was patience to sit through one shoe, recording the winning coup each time (it wasn’t even necessary to record the actual cards dealt, just the winning coup, and Casino operators will, helpfully, give you a scorecard and a pen to enable this) then to make your wagers when the cards were replayed.

It was so blatant that, when we investigated it, it was evident that the wager made was £1 when the Player Agent wasn’t sure what the winning coup would be and £100 (the maximum wager amount allowed) when they were.

While I have to confess that my Surveillance Department, and by extension myself, failed to watch the Stadium as we, in hindsight, should have. We did have a robust procedure in place to examine unusual deviations in win/loss. So, I quickly noticed that the Stadium wasn’t making the money that it had done, a conclusion reached by the Casino GM independently. 

At which point the detection of the scam was ludicrously simple; because it was pretty blatant.

But, as a scam, it shouldn’t have been possible in the first place.

The factors that made it so were:

  • An unexamined assumption that because the payouts were accurate, and secure then the holistic game was secure. The two things are not the same. All of the payments made were indeed accurate. But the scam thrived, for a while, despite that; indeed it thrived because of that. But game security should never be assumed while there is a human agent capable of independent action. Humans steal, not electronics.
  • Problem Children should be isolated and “punished” and not supervised. They should be ignored. This didn’t really consider “why” they were considered problem children in the first place and what they might, in these situations do, to combat this neglect, or to benefit from it. The very act of being a problem child is that they are not liked and/or trusted. If you do not trust someone you place them where they are under the most surveillance and they have the greatest security surrounding them, not the least.

Both factors necessary for this scam could, and should, have been addressed long before the scam took place. 

New games and new systems of operation should always be examined with a jaundiced eye. Never assume that something is secure simply because one element of it is secure. All elements of a game, including, especially the human element, need to be secure before you can rest easy; and, even here these elements should be subject to regular checks to ensure that all elements remain secure and that short-cuts in policy and procedure have not crept into the operation.

Problem children shouldn’t just be ignored, or worse “punished”, although this is the natural reaction to their personality and activities on all too many occasions.

“Out of sight, out of mind.” Is a recipe for potential disaster.

Staff interpersonal interaction like this is often a blind spot for Surveillance professionals, as we are simply unaware that this is the case for other staff member in other departments; although if you have problem children in your own operation you should always be very careful what they are assigned to do. If that is always the “worst jobs” then you might well wish to examine “what else” they are up to?

All that can be recommended for other departments is to try to learn as much as you can about any employee who might be disgruntled. This generally ranks from very difficult to frankly impossible, depending upon the size of your operation. But it should at least be attempted. Regular meetings with your counterparts in Gaming, Food and Beverage and the like should be encouraged, so that there is a greater likelihood that problematic employees can, at least, be identified early.

Problem children within your operation should never be neglected, or allowed to fester until they are a real threat to profitability, or to where they leave you open to a scam or fraud.

By Malcolm Rutherford, IACSP Board Member