A blackjack dealer working at Evolution’s live dealer studio in Connecticut was arrested late last week for cheating. Sebastian Echeverri, 23, exploited his role as a shuffler to place winning bets through DraftKings Casino accounts he controlled. Complaints by a fellow dealer led to an investigation by the state gaming regulator, which then contacted the police.
Echeverri is alleged to have defrauded DraftKings out of at least $47,000. State police say he admitted to investigators that he had manipulated decks and placed advantageous wagers through three different DraftKings accounts. He was then arrested on March 29, 2023, and has a court date set for April 20. He will face charges of cheating and first-degree larceny.
Online gambling sites in Connecticut fall under the supervision of the Gaming Division of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). DCP Communications Director Kaitlyn Krasselt told Bonus:
Upon receiving a complaint from another dealer, the Department of Consumer Protection Gaming Division began an investigation into the allegations of cheating. DCP takes these allegations very seriously, and once this type of activity was brought to our attention investigators worked quickly to determine the extent of the scheme. The DCP Gaming Division investigates allegations of nefarious activity, in addition to engaging in regular oversight and compliance monitoring of licensees in the regulated gaming marketplace.
Live dealer games allow online casino users to play blackjack and other table games with an actual human dealer over a live stream. Evolution is the largest provider of such games in the US and the only one serving Connecticut online casinos.
How Echeverri Allegedly Scammed DraftKings
Live dealer games take place in special, secure streaming studios. Evolution’s Connecticut studio is in Norwalk.
Evolution offers numerous games to Connecticut players, but blackjack is the most popular. The primary dealer handles the cards, deals the hands and interacts with players just like in a real casino. Rather than being seated at the table, however, the players can be anywhere in the state. Players watch the action and make betting decisions through a computer or smartphone.
To keep the game flowing smoothly, a second dealer, known as the shuffler, is responsible for preparing decks. It was in that role that Echeverri allegedly hatched his scheme.
According to the DCP’s investigation – and his own admission – Echeverri would memorize the order of cards before passing the deck to the on-camera dealer. DCP investigators say that, in some cases, he even changed their order.
Echeverri would then allegedly use three DraftKings Casino accounts (presumably registered to other people) to place bets on hands he knew would be winners. Evolution detected suspiciously high betting activity on one of these accounts. It determined that the login had come from the same device Echeverri had used to log into the company’s employee portal.
New Licensing Requirements in the Works for Live Casino Dealers
Echeverri seems to have been caught relatively quickly. Even so, Connecticut is looking to tighten up its systems to prevent a repeat occurrence.
Krasselt told Bonus:
This incident also highlights the importance of a regulated marketplace, to ensure fairness for consumers by removing bad actors when incidents arise. As a result of this activity, DCP proposed the language included in Senate Bill 971, which establishes a new license type for Live Game Employees. We would also like to thank the Statewide Organized Crime Investigative Task Force for their assistance and involvement in this investigation.
At present, Connecticut live casino dealers only need an occupational employee license. This is the default form of license required by regular employees of any online casino operator or supplier.
SB 971 would create a new form of licensing specific to employees working in a live dealer studio and handling cards or other equipment. The main difference between this and occupational licensing would be a requirement to submit to a criminal background check.
The same bill would also make several other tweaks to the state’s gaming law. These include a prohibition on using shared credit cards to make gambling deposits and some tightening of advertising regulations.
Are Live Dealer Casino Games Safe for Players?
Game integrity is a top priority for any gambler. Whether playing in-person, online, or through live dealer streaming, everyone wants to know they’re getting a fair game.
A story like this is bound to cause some concern. However, there are a couple of important things to note:
- Echeverri’s arrest shows that game integrity precautions are working as intended, and
- The victim of his alleged scheme was DraftKings itself and not the casino’s customers.
That’s typically the case. Cheating of players by other players sometimes happens in multiplayer games like poker. Outside of that, however, most cheating scams target the house, not the players.
Regulated online casinos are under intense scrutiny by regulators like the DCP. Any systemic cheating by the house would quickly become apparent because the total payouts for a game would not match its theoretical return-to-player.
There’s also little incentive for a casino to cheat, as the games are already in the house’s favor. Casinos can choose the game rules to produce whatever edge they want. But they usually choose a small edge because it keeps people playing. Cheating to increase the edge would be counterproductive and risky when they could do the same thing legally just by changing the games they offer.