On the casino floor, there are low-level casino staff, high-level casino managers, and security guards. In the back rooms there are employees watching people through the "eye in the sky." But with so much money at stake, all of these things don't keep unwanted gamblers from walking in the door in the first place. This is where Griffin Investigations comes in.
Griffin Investigations is a private security company specializing in the gambling industry. The company began in the 1960s and was founded by Beverly Griffin and her husband as a mom-and-pop detective agency. The company maintains databases of card counters, serial jackpot winners, cheaters, etc. Generally speaking, the Griffin book contains names of all of the players the casinos want to keep out of their establishments. Getting your name in Griffin's databases is something all these gamblers want to avoid.
The company operates for the benefit of the casino industry as a whole. By allowing numerous casino companies to subscribe to their services, they indirectly allow for information-sharing with regard to letting others know about problem customers. Roughly half of the major casinos in the US once subscribed to Griffin’s services.
Griffin Investigations helped stop the MIT card counting team by getting their hands on their pictures in the MIT yearbook.
Griffin creates entries on gamblers based on the characteristics and history of that particular person. They enter their information into their "Griffin Online Database" (G.O.L.D.). They keep pictures either obtained from a photo of the individual when detained or from surveillance photos.
Given that Griffin's operations are essentially a cat-and-mouse game with the gamblers they are investigating; the company itself keeps quiet on how they operate. They don't talk about how much they charge or how they obtain their information.
Since the techniques of casino cheaters have evolved over the years, especially with regard to technology, the company itself has evolved along with them. These days, Griffin uses ultra-modern high-tech techniques: biometric technology such as facial recognition software to spot people in its database. The new technology that drives the need for casinos to use Griffin's services may also serve as threat to Griffin. The casinos may decide to rely exclusively on technology while no longer relying on a street-level detective agency like Griffin.
The company has been sued for defamation by gamblers who claim they were flagged when they did nothing wrong. The reasons why these negative incidents occur is because casinos don't have any incentive to differentiate between "advantage gamblers" vs. cheaters. Cheaters beat the casino by engaging in illegal activity, while "advantage gamblers" beat the casino while not doing anything illegal. They simply use information that is available to them to make decisions that put the odds in their favor. In blackjack advantage gamblers may be card counters or "hole-carders" (players who can spy on the dealer's hole card because a sloppy dealer doesn't do a good enough job at hiding it).
From the standpoint of the casino wanting to keep both of these types of players out of their games, there isn't a distinction, and there doesn't need to be one. Both cheaters and advantage players are a threat to casino profits because they can (and do) take casinos for millions of dollars. The problem arises when Griffin's information is relayed to law enforcement. Griffin Investigations makes it clear that they are not a law enforcement company, and that they only provide information to casinos about certain players and why they are winning. Griffin information is so detailed, that law enforcement may use this information in decisions they make regarding arrests. Even if the information is objectively correct, the decisions based on the information are ultimately a result of subjective interpretation.
One lawsuit against Griffin had been brought by two gamblers, Michael Russo and James Grosjean. They claimed they had been improperly detained, labeled as cheaters and arrested, on the basis of information supplied by Griffin. In 2005, a jury ordered Griffin Investigations to pay $15,000 and $10,000 to the two gamblers in damages. And Griffin Investigations and Caesars Palace were each ordered to pay damages of $25,000 each. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2005 after losing the libel suit.
A second problem is that some of the information that goes into the Griffin database may come from unverified third parties. Most of the information is relayed directly from casino security and casino surveillance. But not all of it. A player winning from a legal strategy may be inaccurately inputted into the database as a cheater. Someone changing their bet spread from 1 unit to 20 may automatically be labeled a card counter.
The Griffin Book is frequently referred to as the "Black Book", a common term used to generally refer to a list of players who are unwelcome in casinos (i.e. "blacklisted"). But the Griffin Book is different from the Black Book used by official Gaming Control Board which is used to keep out people who have convictions which prohibit them from legally entering a casino.
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