Nevada Regulator Warns of Increasing Number of Scam Attempts at Las Vegas Casinos

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
USA Legal Betting Casino


  • There has been a string of scam attempts, some successful, at Las Vegas casinos
  • One incident involved a 23-year-old telling a cash clerk that he was the casino’s owner and needed $1.17 million for fire safety equipment
  • There is worry that artificial intelligence could be used to increase the effectiveness of the crimes

The Nevada Gaming Control Board Friday warned casinos of ongoing scams involving “social-engineering tactics” and the potential use of artificial intelligence.

There has been a string of thefts in Nevada recently, one of which allowed a 23-year-old to thieve $1.17 million. This is the first time that the Nevada regulator had addressed that or other incidents publicly.

Part of the board’s plea to local casinos is to put more emphasis on training their staff to avoid such occurrences, particularly ones on the gaming floor.

Recent scams

The $1.17 million scam was far from the James Bond or Mission Impossible-level thriller that a seven-figure heist portrays at face value. Instead, Erik Gutierrez-Martinez, the average age of college graduates in America, convinced a Circa Hotel & Casino employee that he was the owner of the casino.

That employee was in charge of the casino cash cage and, upon hearing that Martinez needed the money for “fire safety” equipment, turned over the seven-figure amount.

Martinez was also implicated in a March attempt to defraud the Eureka Casino Resort in Mesquite, NV out of $250,000. A person called the casino at around 1:30 a.m. local time from a Mexican phone number and said that a check for $250,000 should be written and ready to be cashed. 

When the employee on the line said that they could not find the check, the person on the phone instructed them to put a quarter of a billion dollars into boxes and deliver it to Las Vegas, which they complied with. $15,000 was turned into Bitcoin along the way, and the remaining $235,000 was delivered to a person believed to be Martinez at a gas station. 

Police searched Martinez’s place of residence on June 21 and found bundles of money belonging to Circa.

A similar situation involving the use of Mexican phone numbers reportedly occurred at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, though the details there are less clear. Martinez has not been charged in connection to the incident.

A new wave of crime

The Gaming Control Board made it clear in its warning to casinos that cashiers and employees on the gaming floor are increasingly becoming the targets of scam attacks.

“Criminal subjects use social engineering tactics to pose as casino executives,” the regulator said in its notice. “The subjects direct cage employees to withdraw cash from the casino cage and take the funds offsite for emergency payments on behalf of the casino.”

“The cage scam is sophisticated and has been surprisingly effective in defrauding casinos,” the notice continued. “Subjects gain intelligence on high-level casino owners, employees, managers, and others connected to the casino’s money operations. The fraudsters then contact cage employees using a variety of scenarios to manipulate personnel based on a fear of negative consequences for casino employees and/or operations.”

According to the board, scammers insist that payments are needed urgently and coax employees into believing that they are doing the right thing—and may be in line for a bonus or recognition for their commitment to their job.

The regulator is also wary that the widespread development and use of AI will only lead to further sophistication of scams and crime at casinos. MGM Casino, for example, is also test-driving a new policy that allows patrons to use cell phones on the gambling floor, which presents another potential complication.

It is therefore empowering casinos to revisit their security protocols and reminds employees of the exact scenarios in which they should remove cash from the cage.

Willy Allison, founder of the World Game Protection Conference, noted that criminals are able to target particular employees after gaining a basic understanding of them through social media audits. Allison called it an “intimidation heist” and said that the training should have begun months ago.

Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself in his up-to-the-minute reporting on the latest events in the industry. A member of Virginia Tech’s 2021 graduating class, he has quickly put together an impressive portfolio since moving to the professional world full-time. Grant’s favorite sports to cover are basketball and both types of football (American and soccer), and he is pushing written, audio, and video content. He has been employed by companies as highly regarded as Forbes and continues on a great trajectory in the industry. When he’s not on the clock, you can find Grant at the gym, looking for adventures, or hanging out with his family.