Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Tommy Carmichael is a master slot cheat, who has been convicted twice in Las Vegas and once in Atlantic City on accounts of slot cheating. He also admits to have cheated at hundreds of other casinos before ever being caught.
Carmichael was the mastermind behind a cheating slot machine group that managed to steal millions of dollars from casinos worldwide. Carmichael produced a myriad of cheat tools including the monkey paw and the light wand which enabled him to successfully rig slot machines for nearly two decades.
World's Biggest Slot Machine Scam
In 1980, Carmichael was working at a television repair shop when his old friend, Ray Ming, showed him something that would change his life forever. In his car trunk, Ming had a miniature slot machine and a top-bottom joint: a rare but effective cheating tool for that time period.
Carmichael was instantly hooked and spontaneously decided to leave everything he knew behind and head to Las Vegas to try this top-bottom joint out. He first tried it out on a five-cent machine at a Las Vegas Strip casino, and managed to collect more than $35 dollars worth of nickels. He spent the entire weekend using this tool on various slot machines, feeling unstoppable, and winning a significant amount of money.
Carmichael stopped at a nearby Denny's for a mid-afternoon coffee break when all of a sudden, several police officers trampled through the restaurant in search of him. When they search his pockets, they found the top-bottom joint, which he claimed was a tool he used to start his car. Due to Carmichael's track record of drugs and misdemeanors, he was sentenced to five years for this cheating scandal.
Behind bars, Carmichael met Mike Balsamo, who would help him form a small group of expertise game cheats. They agreed to find each other after they were done serving their time. Although they were able to locate each other, there were many more obstacles the pair would have to face in the months to come, particularly advancements in slot machine technology that would throw their old cheating methods out the window.
Released From Prison, Round Two
While Carmichael was in prison, Bally and International Game Technology released a video poker slot machine that operated on microprocessors and random number generators. It would now be impossible to cheat using his old methods, so Carmichael had to go back to the drawing board.
After he saved up enough money through working a couple part time jobs, Carmichael returned to Las Vegas and bought a video poker machine. He spent nearly half a year developing and producing a device that would later be known as, The Monkey Paw.
This device, which was made out of spring steel and guitar wire could be placed through the payout chute, tripping the micro switch, and causing the bucket full of quarters to pay out approximately a $1,000 an hour. Unfortunately for Carmichael, slot machine technology kept improving and soon the monkey claw wouldn't be as effective either.
He went to the Las Vegas showroom, pretending to be a customer that wanted inspected the inside of a machine in order to see if he could still rig them. Carmichael bought one of the machines and in a matter of days invented the tool know was The Light Wand. The light would shine up the payout chute so brightly that the sensor would be blinded and cause the machine to spill out the coins.
By about 1992, the device was successfully cheating slot machines everywhere and Carmichael was soon making thousands by selling it to other slot machine cheats in the industry. Carmichael, himself, played almost every-day, spending most of his time in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He didn't limit himself to the United States though. In 1995, Carmichael and Balsamo took seven Caribbean cruises in the span of six months, earning thousands a day from the casinos on board.
Balsamo later introduced Carmichael to Ramon David Pereira to form a tight knit group of cheating professionals. They scouted out several other cheats that had already been active in the industry for years and it wasn't long before they were making millions of dollars on a daily basis.
Getting Caught and Convicted
In fall of 1996, Carmichael sat in front of a slot machine inside the Circus Circus hotel-casino but little did he know that surveillance cameras were focusing on his every move. As soon as his cheating was confirmed, security guards were sent to take him into custody.
He was later charged on accounts of possessing a cheating device and manufacturing a cheating device. The charges were later dropped, but less than a year later Carmichael was arrested again in another part of Nevada for similar charges.
In 2000, Carmichael was federally convicted as principal member of a nation-wide cheating operation. Carmichael was sentenced to serve 326 days in jail, three years of probation, and a court ordered ruling to stay out of all casinos until his probation was over.
Turning Things Around
Carmichael now spends his time developing new gadgets in his nearby workshop. One of them is called The Protector: an anti-cheating device that Carmichael is hoping will right his past mistakes. This device was design to withstand all known cheating devices, but authorities are being very cautious. "They cannot stand the thought of me righting a wrong and possibly making a little money off it," Carmichael exclaims in an interview with USA Today.
The Nevada Gaming Commission debated whether Carmichael should be listed in the state's Black Book of people banned from casinos. After long consideration and despite his efforts to make things right, they believed it would be in their best interest to do so.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: August 2016