Fellow reader and gambler Bill asked a few questions recently about the safety and security of casino dice after watching a friend get crushed at a craps table in Vegas. The questions are understandable, and Nevada casinos used to have some problems with shaved dice that gave a small percentage to a players that brought them into play, or a bigger advantage to the casino that used them.
In 1967, the Riverside casino in Reno, recently upgraded with a Teamster's loan, was shut down for using crooked dice. Yeah, it used to happen. I interviewed an old-time pit boss who had suspicions about some dice players and got security to let him into their hotel room at the Sands casino and they confiscated a satchel full of crooked dice. And not just any dice, dice that were already logo'ed and ready to slip into games at a dozen Vegas casinos.
However, the dice manufacturers licensed by gaming jurisdictions across the US are very careful with their inspection and quality control. I toured TK Specialty's dice manufacturing plant in Reno one afternoon, and I learned a thing or two. Dice are calibrated to within 1/10,000 of an inch - weighted and balanced to perfection. The "spots" are balanced also, so the one side is just as heavy as the six side. Dice are clear so no dice can have lead weights, and you'll sometimes see a boxman put a die between his thumb and middle finger to give it a little spin and give it a rudimentary check.
In addition, dice are sometimes inspected and calibrated at the casino level, and Gaming Control periodically arrives at casinos and ask for the dice right off a crap game. Then the dice are taken away and tested. It's a pretty good system, but not perfect.
It's not perfect because most casino gaming departments are very lax with the dice they put on games. Even if they are kept in a vault, once out, it wouldn't be impossible for an unscrupulous employee to put some questionable dice on a game. Sure, Gaming Control could show up, but then what? And, I've seen old dice on games with actual felt burns on them and even nicks and chips that can skew the weight of the dice.
On the other hand, 99.9 percent of the time the dice do just what they are designed to do, give you a fair roll. And fair rolls at the crap game wind up with the casino holding a profit at the end of the night - the nature of gambling, and what might appear as strange or conspiratorial to the player is usually just good old probability taking over.