Two casino croupiers ‘fixed’ a roulette wheel in an elaborate scam to steal tens of thousands of pounds from a popular Blackpool attraction.
Craig Walker, 26, and Daniel Johnson, 29, used a secret signal – scratching their heads – to tip off their stooge Kevin Traynor, 32, to raise his stakes as part of a bid to con Coral Island out of £23,000.
But when managers at the casino became suspicious that Traynor’s winnings were disproportionate to his bets, they checked CCTV and the scam was uncovered.
Fraser Livesey, defending, said: “This isn’t Oceans 11 – but there is planning involved.”
Preston Crown Court heard Walker and Johnson were working together on a quiet shift at the casino in New Bonny Street when they discovered it was possible to perform a “no spin” on the wheel – fixing it so the ball stayed in the same slot.
They enlisted Traynor, who was a family friend of Johnson’s from outside the area, to visit the casino and place a number of bets.
This isn’t Oceans 11 – but there is planning involved
When he was given the signal, dad-of-one Traynor increased his bet from £25 to £100, securing a win on the roulette wheel and splitting the cash equally with his two accomplices.
Patrick Williamson, prosecuting, said: “All three said their motivation was that they had been in debt.”
In January 2015, two months after the trio started their scam, casino manager Richard Monroe became suspicious about Traynor’s gambling pattern and asked a member of staff to supervise him.
Traynor seemed to be gambling small amounts but making big wins and when computer records revealed a £2,100 payout, Mr Monroe started delving into CCTV footage.
Walker – a senior croupier with responsibility for overseeing games were being played fairly – was seen scratching his head prior to a ball being anticipated.
All three men were arrested and admitted their part in the plan.
Mr Livesey said: “(Walker) will never again work in the trade he has learned since he was 18. No one is ever going to trust him.”
Brian Williams, defending Johnson, said: “What began as an idle discussion developed into a plan. He can hardly believe they did it.”
Recorder Nicholas Clarke, sentencing, said: “On eight occasions you operated the game in such a way that your stooge, who you brought in from Manchester, could come in and play the game to win.
“You gave a signal, a no spin was arranged which prompted an increased bet and so secured a larger win than you would by playing by chance or without the knowledge of the wheel.”
All three men pleaded guilty to fraud.
Walker, of Cocker Street, Blackpool, was jailed for 14 months; Johnson, also of Cocker Street, was jailed for 12 months and Traynor, of Heywood Road, Prestwich, was handed a nine-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Speaking after the hearing, Det Con Sarah Moyes, of Blackpool CID, said: “Coral Island is out of pocket to the tune of £23,000 because the two men who worked there, Walker and Johnson, who were very experienced croupiers, had noticed there was a flaw in the system they could exploit.
“They would wait until nobody was watching and itch the back of their head to signify the scam was about to start.
“Traynor would come in for hours and bet low, maybe £1, and right in the middle he would throw down £85 on a single number and win.
“The other two were in a position of trust within Coral Island. They had been there a number of years and Walker, in particular, was a pit inspector as well.”
“This aided their abuse of the system.”
She said the fraud only stopped once management became aware and spoke to the men.
Police say the money has all been spent but a Proceeds of Crime hearing will hope to recover some of the cash from the trio’s future earnings.