5 Biggest Las Vegas Scandals

Vegas recently changed their infamous slogan from 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' to 'what happens in Vegas could only happen here' — and boy, do we agree. Vegas didn't earn the moniker 'Sin City' for nothing, so we're looking at some of the most scandalous moments from the Entertainment Capital's past.

Pop Culture

They don’t call Las Vegas ‘Sin City’ for no reason. Vegas has plenty of money, drinking, parties, and gambling going on. It’s no surprise that sin and scandal often tag along as uninvited guests.

Las Vegas has a long, rich history of shenanigans. Today we’re taking a look at some memorable ones. From crimes to scams, to everything in between, here are our five favorites.

1) Friendly Software Leads To Generous Slots Payouts

There has always been a feeling among slot players that there’s something known as “hot” and “cold” slots. Players feel that some machines are more likely to pay out while some are duds. In the early 1990s, that proved to be true.

Ron Harris, a software engineer, was in charge of writing anti-cheating software for the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NVGC) when he stumbled upon something. He decided to input a few lines of code that would help him cash in.

He secretly entered hidden software that paid players out when playing coins in a certain sequence. If you just inserted a coin, nobody would know the difference. The machine functioned normally. If you happened to insert coins in a specific sequence, then you’d hit the jackpot.

Harris managed to rig 30 machines and worked with accomplices that helped them walk away with hundreds of thousands.

In 1996, he and the team got greedy as they kept working the scam, and finally got busted. Harris was sentenced to seven years in prison.

2) Prince Harry Exposes The Goods

The slogan is “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” but we all know that this golden rule doesn’t always apply. That’s especially true for any celebrities and famous people.

Prince Harry of the Royal Family found this out back in 2012 when he ended up flashing his crown jewels. He was partying in Sin City when he got caught up in a risqué game of billiards and exposed his privates. Prince Harry was allegedly trying to impress some ladies by stripping down. The photos were splashed across the media, and the story became a royal scandal.

Things improved for the prince, but it has taken him a long time to live that down.

3) MIT Team Cleans Casinos Out Playing Blackjack

Card counting in blackjack is banned in certain states. Even where it is legal, it is often frowned upon – blackjack players can be asked to leave a casino. You can send a big thank you to the MIT team for that. Over two decades – starting in the 1970’s – they perfected their card-counting strategy to beat casinos out of millions of dollars.

welcome to fabulous Las Vegas sign

Welcome to Las Vegas.

The team featured current and ex-students from several prestigious schools like MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and more. Blackjack is mostly about math and understanding probabilities, but they discovered a way where the numbers could work in their favor – if they tracked the cards.

Bill Kaplan was the head of the operation. Over the years, he allegedly cleared $10 million in winnings. He also trained plenty of other players to go out and do the same thing.

Casinos eventually caught on to what was happening and began barring Kaplan and his disciples from playing.

If you ever want to learn more about the elaborate scheme, check out the mid-2000’s movie “21”.

4) O.J. Simpson Gets Busted, Convicted In Vegas

Everyone recalls the double-murder that O.J. Simpson was tried for and got off, but many forget that he was tried and convicted of other crimes too.

Thirteen years after being acquitted of a double-murder, Simpson showed up at a Las Vegas hotel room to reclaim his sports memorabilia – at least that was his version of the story.

He used force and a weapon to steal that memorabilia back. Simpson ended up getting slapped with a dozen charges, of which he was found guilty. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison but released in 2017 after serving nine years of his time.

5) Kane Walks Away With Hundreds Of Thousands Via Video Poker

One of the biggest scandals to hit video poker all happened inadvertently. John Kane was playing video poker and found a glitch in the system that allowed him to walk away with more than half a million dollars.

Kane was playing Game King when he discovered something peculiar: the game had allowed him to replay hands with different base wagers. Once he figured that out, he would play for hours at one cent a hand.

But then when he hit the jackpot, he would replay the game with the maximum wager, which was $10. That meant that he could clean up $10,000 or more on those hands. He played for hours until he made out like a bandit.

After Kane won, he was arrested and tried, but federal prosecutors didn’t have much of a case to go on. Kane’s attorney argued that there was no conspiracy.

No hacking. No plan. All his client did was push a sequence of buttons and win. Kane ended up walking free in the end.

6) Charles Barkley Lands in Deep Debt

Charles Barkley’s love of gambling is well-documented, but back in 2008 the Wynn in Las Vegas filed a civil complaint against Barkley, claiming he failed to pay back a $400,000 debt incurred the previous year.

Despite the 11-time NBA All-Star and TNT announcer’s name coming up often when Vegas scandals are mentioned, this scandal has a fairly lackluster ending — he claimed he simply let time lapse, and he repayed the loan.

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Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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