Bright Lights of Las Vegas

Bright Lights of Las Vegas

Omar Siddiqui

Omar Siddiqui Ausaf Umar ‘Omar’ Siddiqui, also known to casino staff as ‘Mr. S.’, is a former vice president of merchandising and operations at Fry’s Electronics Inc. who, in 2008, was indicted, tried and convicted of one count of wire and one count of money laundering. Siddiqui signed a plea deal, admitting guilt to the two felonies, and defrauding his former employer of $65.6 million, provided the federal government dropped seven other felony charges; he was subsequently sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

Siddiqui reportedly earned $225,000 a year, but devised a highly profitable ‘kickback’ scheme, wherby he would buy increased quantities of goods, at inflated prices, from some of Fry’s suppliers in return for a percentage of the total sales price. Indeed, he set up an entirely fraudulent company, called ‘PC International’, solely for the purpose of receiving millions of dollars in illicit payments.

Siddiqui used much of his ill-gotten gains to pay off enormous gambling debts in Las Vegas and continue his façade as a high-roller, or ‘whale’. Indeed, in his heyday, he was well-known on the Las Vegas Strip, where casinos vied with each other for his attention. They flew him to Las Vegas from his home in Palo Alto, in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, ‘comped’ him lavish accommodation, including the 7,000-square-foot Chairman Suite at the Venetian, for example, and extended him millions of dollars in credit.

In the space of a decade, Siddiqui gambled away as much as $167 million at the MGM Grand Casino, Las Vegas Sands Casino, Palms Casino Resort and elsewhere but, in 2005, his scheme started to unravel when a Fry’s employee caught sight of confidential documents, including abnormally high commission amounts on his desk. In 2011, Siddiqui filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, listing liabilities of over $136 million, mostly in gambling debts, against assets of less than $7 million, of which just $80 remained in his checking account.

Casino Questions

Casino Questions Entire volumes have been written about casinos. From stories of the establishments themselves, the history of Vegas, playing strategies and big wins. There’s no shortage of approaches to take with casino Q&As. In this edition though we’ll be centering in on the money (both virtual and real) and the collectibles side of casinos.

What is the highest chip value in use in a Vegas?

This may well be one of those questions without a confirmed known answer, are there are close to 200 separate casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada – 30 of them forming part of the Las Vegas strip. Most casinos offer $1000 chips for those wishing to put their peddle to the mental, gambling-wise. If you sit at a roulette table for any amount of time, no matter the denominations people are betting, you get to see an awful lot of money exchanging hands pretty quickly. For some though, they think beyond the low thousands. Consider the Floyd Mayweather types, making tens of millions of dollars and then not thinking twice about unwinding at a Vegas casino.

After searching high and low for an answer, we’ve settled on the Paris, Las Vegas, which offers a casino chip to the dizzying value of $100,000. It’s not often you’d ever actually see this chip as it’s held back for those with multi million dollar credit lines (arguably more money than sense!). Interestingly, the $100,000 chip which of course sports a RFID security tag, is usually reserved for baccarat. The game is known to attract big money players;  Planet Hollywood’s baccarat tables allow a maximum bet of a hefty $200,000!

Can you turn cash to chips and vice versa in Grand Theft Auto’s Diamond Casino?

Lover of the Grand Theft Auto franchise were elated when in July 2019 a fully kitted out casino (Blackjack, Poker, Roulette and more) popped up in the GTA 5 world. The casino, set in the fictional setting of Los Santos, even lets you exchange real money for casino chips, so is as real as can be. Chips can be purchased in-game at the ratio of $1 to 1 chip. Any winnings can then be spent in the GTA world such as on cars or weapons. However, you cannot turn your chips back into real world cash. Whether this will change in future is anyone’s guess. Some though would say that’s it’s not healthy to blur the lines between gaming and gambling. In fact a number of countries have blocked gambling based mini games in the likes of GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption.

How are casino chips made?

Much in the same way that people are often fascinated by ‘where their money comes from’, many have wondered how casino chips are made. As you might well imagine there is more to them than meets the eye. It’s important for starters that chips are aesthetically pleasing. They are central to casino play and so significant thought goes into the design process, colour scheme and even weight of the chips. The manufacturing is as granular as giving consideration to the sound casino chips make when they are clatter together. They also need to be durable and so size and thickness is a consideration. Worldwide, there are only a handful of trusted companies with the experience to make professional casino chips (Abbiati, Matsui, and Gaming Partners International); rather than the cheap plastic ones you get in home roulette and poker sets.

Chips need to be casino specific and distinctive, so they have all manner of customisation options such as the design, rim, inner/outer section of the chip, and a choice of up to 50 colours. All previous designs are stored in a database to ensure that there are no matches. Underneath the bonnet there’s plenty going on too. Chips routinely sport both UV and RFID tag elements to ensure their authenticity and security.View it as being similar to a watermark on a bank note. So in summing up, a simple casino chip is a lot more complex and planned out than it may look at first glance.

And it’s gone..

And it's gone..

Martingale Madness!

Martingale Madness! Anyone with a love of roulette has surely heard of the Martingale system. There is a certain logic and structure behind why it ‘can’ work to your benefit, but it’s a system that is very unforgiving should you find yourself on a losing streak. The principle behind it is very straightforward; betting on red or black you simply double down every time you lose, until your number comes up. It goes like this:

 

 

  • You bet $10 and lose (bankroll at -10).
  • You bet $20 and lose (bankroll at -30).
  • You bet $40 and lose (bankroll at -70).
  • You bet $80 and lose (bankroll at -150).
  • You bet $320 and win (bankroll at +10).

This clearly illustrated both the reasoning behind it as well as its fatal flaw. When the going is good you can add to your winnings over time in a very consistent way. However, roulette has some improbably runs of a single colour for instance, and if you find yourself caught in the midst of one of those, you’ll soon be gambling mind boggling amounts in order to simply claw your money back. There are no shortage of horror stories of those pushing things too far with the Martingale system and losing everything. It ‘feels’ like a foolproof system until it suddenly goes off the rails.

Notable individuals with connections to the Martingale system include the likes of David Cloe, an artist who made his millions  ($200 million to be precise) via cashing in shares he has given upon completing a Mural in the early days of Facebook. He’s said to have gone from $500 t $1 million on one casino trip. Though to eventually jacked in the gambling on account of suffering an angina attack at just 35 due to his hedonistic party lifestyle.

Another Martingale madman is Charles Wells, the nineteenth century conman who conned people out of £4000 (worth £130,000 today) before gambling with it Monte Carlo. He experienced the run of a lifetime breaking the bank on multiple occasions to the tune of a million francs total (£4 million total). He later returned and repeated the feat! In interviews he proclaimed that he used a secret strategy, only for it later to emerge that he simply used the Martingale system. It proved to be his undoing on his fateful third trip to Monte Carlo. He lost everything and to top it off was arrested for fraud upon his return to Britain.