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The following article is taken from The Press Newspaper, Atlantic City, New Jersey.
By DANIEL HENEGHAN
ATLANTIC CITY - Gamblers who walk softly but wear big boots may be costing casinos millions of dollars because the boots conceal tiny computers that give them an edge at the game of blackjack.
"It is a very serious problem at this point, and one that is growing by the day," said Paul Burst, executive vice president of Del Webb's Claridge Casino Hotel. In fact, officials at one casino estimated that the concealed computers could be costing the casinos as much as $20 million a year in lost revenue.
Leon Drew, an assistant shift manager at Harrah's Marine Hotel Casino said some of the players have tempered their greed in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
"There's no way to tell how many people are taking out moderate amounts," he said.
But both Burst and Drew said the computers are so accurate that they successfully tell gamblers to make what otherwise would appear to be irrational decisions.
The computer is about the size of a cigarette pack and as a player inputs information about all the cards as they are being dealt, the computer can determine with astonishing accuracy what the next card is and can tell the player to bet accordingly, the casino official said.
Officials explained that players can conceal four tiny switches in their shoes and use them to input the value of each card into the computer by moving their big toes up or down. The computer then sends signals to the player by way of buzzing or vibrating electrodes taped to the player's body. All of the wiring is concealed under the clothing, and the computer itself is generally strapped to the player's leg and hidden by the boot.
Brenda Smith, an assistant casino manager, said that the computers first appeared in casinos more than a year ago. She added that Atlantic City casinos are easier targets than gaming halls elsewhere for players with computers. She said the crowded conditions can make it much harder for such individuals to be detected.
There are other types of devices that enable one person watching the game to input the information and have the signals sent by radio waves to a partner who can appear to be paying no attention to the game. In addition, the computer can be programmed to play by Atlantic City rules or the rules used in other jurisdictions and can take into account the number of decks used in the game.
"We've received only a handful of incident reports at the casinos about these," said Anthony Parrillo, director of the gaming division. But he noted that it isn't the kind of information that the casinos are required to report to state regulators.
Drew said the computers are so good that they completely eliminate the house's advantage in blackjack and give the player a five to seven percent edge over the house.
"The computer takes it to the point where no skill is required.
It eliminates the chance and makes it a science," said Burst.