By Michael Melia
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- The man at the poker table had a ball cap pulled down almost to his nose, but his glance up at a television screen revealed a familiar face to Mohegan Sun's surveillance cameras: A photograph of the known card cheater had been sent by bulletin to casinos around the country.
Within hours, the bettor was arrested, accused of marking cards with invisible ink.
"The officer who identified him, basically she had a 'Holy crap!' moment," said Jay Lindroos, the casino's surveillance director. "She saw the face and said, 'I recognize that guy!'"Casinos from the U.S. to Australia use their own intelligence network to warn one another about cheaters. As table games spread across the Northeast, resorts are using it more than ever to stay ahead of suspect players -- professional thieves and card counters -- who can easily hit multiple casinos in the span of a few days. Mohegan Sun, one of the world's largest casinos, began sharing intelligence a decade ago with its giant, next-door rival in southeastern Connecticut, the Foxwoods Resort Casino, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Although it was once less common for casinos to talk with competitors, the online network has evolved through mutual self-interest. "If something happens at Foxwoods at 1 o'clock, we'll be aware of it no later than 2, 2:30," said Joseph Lavin, director of public safety for the Mohegan Tribe, which owns and operates the casino. "It won't take more than a day or so before that information goes to Atlantic City, goes to Pennsylvania, goes out to upstate New York." The element of luck makes it impossible to know exactly how much revenue is lost to cheaters, but 100% casino surveillance coverage is a security standard for a U.S. industry that generates tens of billions of dollars annually. Workers at Mohegan Sun, operated by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, monitor feeds from roughly 4,000 cameras, scrutinizing the dealers as closely as they do the players. On a given day, they could be on the lookout for as many as hundreds of faces, some pointed out by other casinos, others by law enforcement agencies seeking criminals who might be trying to launder money.