News Beware of theft from machines

Be vigilant: gaming machine use should be supervised

  • Date: 10 December 2015
  • Author/Solicitor: Nick Arron

You may have seen in the press recently news of a number of thefts from gaming machines in pubs across the South West and, although these crimes are uncommon, they do happen. The fraudsters employ a number different approaches.  This article explores how you can minimise the risk to your business.

Slot machines have mechanical and electronic elements and both can be vulnerable to attack. One method used by the cheats, which has been utilised for many years, is often referred to as “strimming”.  Strimming involves manipulating the machine into giving credits, without making payment.  A more crude approach is to insert a wire into the machine to manipulate the mechanism and defraud the machine of its cash.  Some criminals use foreign coins and notes, which are similar to our coins but of lower denomination.  Others use machine keys, which can be purchased on the Internet, to gain access to the inside of the gaming machine.  Some more violently force the locks and gain access to the cash box.

How to minimise the risks?

Many of the approaches require the criminal to conceal both tools and their activities and your staff should be trained to be vigilant. They should look out for groups of individuals acting suspiciously around the machines, and “wearing big winter coats in the summer!”.

The location of the gaming machine within your pub is important.  Ideally you should locate it within sight of the bar so that it can be supervised by your staff at all times.

Now some law. The Gambling Commission has issued a Code of Practice on the use of gaming machines in alcohol licensed premises. One of the codes, which effectively becomes a condition of making the gaming machines available in your pub, states that “the gaming machines must be located in a place within the premises so that their use can be supervised, either by staff whose duties include such supervision (including bar or floor staff) or by other means”.  "Or by other means" could include CCTV, which will act as a deterrent.

Those who try and defraud gaming machines normally work in small groups of two or three and your staff should be warned to watch out for strangers who order small quantities of cheaper drinks such as half a coke or half a lager. They are looking to spend as little as possible and they cannot drink too much alcohol if they are driving from pub to pub.  Gangs often target areas and will visit a number of pubs over a short space of time.

Diversion tactics can be employed and it is common for these gangs to operate during the day, at quieter times, when you may only have a few staff on duty.

If you do suffer an attack on your machine you should retain any CCTV footage and notify the Police and your gaming machine supplier.  You supplier may have information regarding the criminals but also the industry is quick to make improvements to the machines, where weakness is found, and by notifying them of the incident they may be able to act to prevent further attacks.