Slots cheating a family affair, police say

Michael Joseph Balsamo is a skilled slot-machine cheater, practiced enough to be banned from entering casinos in two states but not good enough to keep from getting caught. Maybe that’s why he allegedly brought his family in on it.

Balsamo started out in the late 1970s with a yo-yo device, a coin with a string attached that could fool a slot machine into thinking new nickels were being plugged in. By the early 1980s, he was serving time in Nevada for cheating casinos with the yo-yo when he pleaded guilty to the same thing in New Jersey.

Over the years, Balsamo, 47, has been investigated 25 times and convicted six. He also got married and moved to Las Vegas, where he was banned from their casinos in 1999.

Now it’s allegedly a family affair. Balsamo’s wife, Stephanie, 45, her mother and her son were all named with him in a recent grand jury indictment charging that the family worked together. They used a hand-held wire with a light on the end to trick slot machines into paying out more than they should, investigators said. They also allegedly acted as lookouts and blocked security cameras for one another.

No one but Balsamo has a history of cheating, Jerry Markling, chief of enforcement for the Nevada Gaming Control Board, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s not every day we catch three generations working together.”

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