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The Nation

Las Vegas Bingo Scam Discovered

Crime: Case is linked to engineer who jumped to his death. Use of game devices halted.

September 26, 2002|From Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Nevada gambling regulators on Wednesday were trying to gauge the extent of a Las Vegas bingo scam they think was developed by a Reno software engineer who jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge before he was questioned.

"We're investigating whether this individual acted alone," Dennis Neilander, head of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said of former GameTech Inc. engineer Brett Norman Keeton. "It's unfortunate that you have an individual that, because of his inside knowledge, was able to do this."

Nevada's top gambling regulator said the state pulled the plug late Monday on GameTech electronic hand-held and console bingo card tracking systems at 13 off-Strip Las Vegas casinos and one bingo hall each in Reno, Pahrump and Mesquite.

"It's a fairly drastic move to shut down an entire system," Neilander said. "We still don't know how he did it. He corrupted the system and altered the system after it was installed."

Neilander said almost 3,200 hand-held electronic bingo card counters were allowed back in service late Tuesday, while investigators continued to try to determine whether other players were affected and how much money the scheme netted.

Keeton probably acted alone, Neilander said, and may have kept winnings below $1,200 to avoid having to fill out Internal Revenue Service paperwork.

He stressed that the bingo ball draw and random number generators at the heart of the grid game were not affected.

About 280 console-style bingo card minders were still idled Wednesday while GameTech officials fixed a program that Keeton allegedly used to increase his odds of winning. Officials said he obtained free electronic bingo "cards" and increased the number he could play at once.

GameTech has sold about 7,000 console-style bingo counters and 50,000 hand-held devices to casinos and bingo halls in 30 states and to 14 Indian tribes, a company spokeswoman said.

Players can use the devices to track and tally dozens of bingo cards electronically.

GameTech chief Clarence Thiesen issued a statement calling Keeton one of the developers of the company's software and said he was one of the few people with the knowledge to get around software safety designs.

Keeton, 38, worked for the company for six years, but he was dismissed Friday, Walsh said.

Family lawyer David Houston of Reno said "suspicion and allegation" about Keeton had not been proved.

Neilander said gambling investigators, acting on a tip, observed Keeton playing bingo at a casino in Las Vegas on Sept. 19.

Investigators were waiting for Keeton at his job on Friday morning, but he did not show up while they were there, Neilander said.

Keeton plunged from the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge about 8:25 p.m. Friday, said Ken Holmes, coroner in Marin County.

Neilander said casinos where GameTech use was suspended were able to continue games with paper cards and ink daubers.

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