Dennis McAndrew

Blacklisted Sept. 24, 2004

I spend a significant amount of my time in Las Vegas and I am always fascinated with the history of Las Vegas. I particularly enjoy reading about the history of gaming. I have written several pieces about historical figures from the early days of gaming. I have also written a few stories about my own gaming past. I even included a story about beating a slot machine and most people have a hard time believing the machines can be beaten. I am here to tell you they can and one man has beaten the machines many times through nefarious means.

There is always a new twist to the same old cheating scams. The best and most determined slot machine cheat of all time was Dennis McAndrew. Dennis has been called the greatest slot machine cheat in gambling history. The Nevada Gaming Control Board stated that he threatened the integrity of the entire slot industry.

In spite of all the security precautions taken by casinos to ensure the integrity of their games, in spite of the video surveillance cameras that monitor every inch of the gaming floors, in spite of the personnel that scrutinize everyone and everything that goes on, Dennis found a way to beat the system. He figured out how to electronically manipulate the computer chips.

Dennis had an uncanny ability to pick locks and as a young man he was convicted of burglary in 1961 before arriving in Las Vegas in 1970. During the seventies, Dennis rigged mechanical slots and it is estimated that he stole over ten million dollars. Dennis and some of his immediate family ran into trouble with the law in 1983. Dennis and his wife fled the jurisdiction and remained on the lam until 1986 when they surrendered to authorities. Dennis was sentenced to 15 years and was paroled after serving only five years.

While in prison Dennis was plotting his next big caper. Technology had moved past Dennis and the old easily compromised mechanical slots had given way to the modern electronic computer slot machine. Dennis set up his own research laboratory in his garage with a newly purchased electronic slot machine and proceeded to take it apart piece by piece and put it back together again self-educating himself about computers and computer chips. He was now ready for action.

An accomplice purchased a computer chip from International Gaming Technologies. Imagine that, the industry leader in slot machine manufacturing was willing to sell slot machine computer chips over the counter to anyone with money. Dennis was able to decipher the information contained on the computer chip and obtain the necessary combinations to load up the jackpot sequence. By 1996, Dennis was ready to ply his trade on the modern slot machines.

The slot machines of the nineties were computer marvels compared to their older cousins, and were thought to be tamperproof, yet Dennis found a way to beat them and had the intestinal fortitude to put his knowledge to work and rake in millions.

In the simplest of terms here is how the magic was performed. Associates would find a machine with little or no camera coverage and keep the machine tied up and after a period of time, Dennis would enter and while the group shielded him from camera view, he would open the machine, and rig the chip to come up with a jackpot. The group would then leave the casino and their accomplice would then magically hit the jackpot. The beauty of the scam is that no trail existed within the computer of the slot machine. Casinos had no idea they were cheated.

A list of five known rigged winners:
Sep-1996, $200,500 at Excalibur won by James Bulgarino
May-1997, $30,000 at Rio won by Louise Melendez
July-1997, $3,700,000 at Harrahs won by Linda Bulgarino
Oct-1997, ’07 Jaguar auto at Luxor won by Ronica Tweedi
Nov-1997, $1,700,000 at Luxor won by Debra Capozzi Bulgarino
The above are all known accomplices and family members and therefore known rigged jackpots that have been openly disclosed.

What brought him down? Dennis is not sure who set him up and why. A lot of stuff has been written about how he was set up by the FBI, which is not true. Most likely whoever set him up was pressured by the FBI for crimes that had nothing to do with him. In November 1998, while trying to hit the huge $17 million Megabucks jackpot, Dennis was busted by the FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents.

After the FBI busted Dennis, they agreed to give him a reduced prison sentence in exchange for his secrets. They had a lot to learn. How he did it was of vital interest to the gaming industry so that they could take precautions to prevent it from happening again. Dennis did tell authorities that there are others engaging in similar activity.

After Dennis was arrested in June 1998, authorities found computer chips and burglary tools when they searched a safe deposit box and storage shed owned by Dennis. Dennis having just cleared parole two years prior from the last slot scam was sentenced to seven and a half years. Dennis was banned from all Nevada casinos and added to the Nevada Black Book on September 24, 2004. Dennis is out of prison now and undoubtedly he will be visiting a casino near you very soon. His last known address was in California. Who knows, if you hang around me long enough you might run into him.

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