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Wearable Computers

This is *NOT* the KIN machine

THE PRESS Newspaper, Atlantic City, N.J. July 4, 1987      WHAT THE CASINOS HAVE TO SAY:


By D A N I E L   H E N E G H A N  Press Staff Writer

NOTE: It is not necessary to use boots.
The Switches can  be built  into any pair of shoes.

 Leon Drew

Leon Drew of Harrah's demonstrates how the tiny computers work.

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 Marina 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 just 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.

Although the state Division of Gaming Enforcement has received few complaints from casino operators about the computers, sources indicated that gamblers using the devices were detected in the city's casinos as recently as last month.

While such devices are not allowed at gaming tables, there isn't much that casinos can do about them. They can't arbitrarily ask someone to leave, and they can't frisk a gambler in search of some electronic device. Even if they could, neither the casinos nor law enforcement officers have any authority to take the computers away from the players. In some cases, out of apparent frustration, casino officials have accused players of carrying a concealed bomb and threatened to call the police to have the device removed.

     "These people have found a weakness in the law, and they are taking advantage of it," said Drew, who has become something of a local expert on the computer devices.

     "We can ask them to leave to leave, but the Division of Gaming Enforcement can't arrest them," said Drew.

     Using such devices is not a criminal offense, but it is a violation of state gaming regulations. The problem is that the regulations do not provide for any penalty for those caught using the devices.

     The computer is about the size of a cigarette pack and as a player inputs information about all the cards as they are dealt, the computer can determine with astonishing accuracy what the next card is likely to be and can tell the player to bet accordingly, the casino officials 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 Smifla, an assistant casino manager at Harrah's, said the devices first appeared in casinos here 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.

     "The extent to which these kinds of devices are being used is not entirely clear," said Anthony Parrillo, director of the gaming division.

     Parrillo said the division has seen various types of computers for blackjack with "various ranges of sophistication to them," but added that the gaming division "has not been able to scientifically establish the reliability of these devices."

     "We've received only a handful of incident reports at the casinos about these," Parrillo said. 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 payer a 5 to 7 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.

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