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An interesting fact that I came across recently:

According to this website, the average haul from a bank robbery in the US is $4,330. Liquor stores and your local stop-and-rob? Sorry, only $769.

However, there is lower-hanging fruit for criminals - an ACBL Regional Bridge Tournament!

Both of the following stories were relayed to me secondhand. While I have no reason to doubt the veracity of these stories, I do not have first-hand knowledge myself. Also, I am not comfortable revealing the locations of these tournaments, because if someone were to read Bridge Winners, it might create an opportunity for them and put people in harm's way.  I have also added a little color to illustrate the point and create a story, however, the amounts referenced are what I was told.

Additionally, I am sure there are other incidences that have occurred that I am not reporting on. If someone wants to detail other robberies in the comments, please DO NOT give the location.

At a regional tournament in 2017, the entries for the compact KO’s, side game, and Open / Gold Rush Pairs were sold at a table located in the hallway outside the main playing area. Up until game time there is a lot of activity in this area. 

However, the District qualifier for the NAP’s were held in a separate room and entries were sold in a smaller hallway away from the main area. In this particular year, there were 32 pairs for A, 40 pairs for B, and 14 pairs for C. At roughly $100 per table, this represents $4,300, not including any change the director might bring. At a regional, it is unusual for someone to pay by check or credit cards, so all entries would be in cash.

The event was being run by two directors. Near the start of the game, the junior director was having problems laying out a web movement for the A section. The tournament director went inside to help out.

When he came back outside, all of the cash that was left unattended on a table was gone.

In 2018, a large regional was taking entries for a Thursday – Friday knockout. This was a busy regional, and there were 20 brackets with 16 teams in each bracket. Again, at $100 per table, this represents $32,000 in cash.

After the brackets were assigned, most of the directors had gone inside to help run the game. One of the directors stayed outside.

Someone had clumsily spilled a glass of wine on the table where the entries were sold. Hotel staff had been called to replace the linen tablecloth where the money was sitting.

The story goes that the tablecloth was replaced with a clean one, and the soiled tablecloth was gone – along with the contents that were on top!  The total take was $32,500.

Gary Blevins (who has since been relieved of duty at the League) was advised of this incident. I do not remember any note of it in the BOD minutes, but the league has insurance and received a settlement of $24,500 after it paid a $8,000 deductible.

Note the last two incidences were not armed robberies. They were strictly ‘crimes of opportunity’. If I am working two jobs and I am called to clean up a tablecloth and there is that much cash sitting in front of me, it would take a lot of restraint not to gather up the money. Maybe I am telling myself I am removing it for ‘safe keeping’, but once I had it in my possession and I was away from the playing area, I would feel like I was in the clear. This much cash might represent two year’s salary for me!

We read about the good citizens that return a wallet that has $1,000 of cash in it, like they are some sort of hero. Doesn’t that imply that the expected behavior of those that find the wallet is to keep it?

In 2008 – 2012, I would occasionally direct a club game and I would have a substantial amount of cash on me. If I am busy selling entries, there could easily be $500 on the table in front of me. If I needed to, say, make coffee, I would bundle it up and stick it in my front pocket. While I felt a little nervous with that kind of cash on me, I would feel a lot more nervous edgy with the cash unattended near the front door. Even though my club is a nice area, you would occasionally see vagrants hanging around that would love to sweep up a big stack of 20s.

It seems like a small crew could swing by a weekday at a large regional and make off with a lot of dough. Not only is there a ton of cash, but you also have a lot of well-heeled sponsors and players present. Forget about the money - directors and players would be a substantial risk in the event of an armed robbery. 

I’m not in loss prevention - but what can be done? Here are some obvious suggestions. 

  • Never, ever leave the entries unattended. This is just common sense.
  • When you get ‘big bills’ like 50’s and 100’s, keep them in a lockbox or a safe. I never see money handled in this way at a tournament.
  • Brink’s security has a service where you can deposit cash into a lockbox and only a Brink’s representative can open it. If tournaments take these precautions. losses like the ones referenced would have been avoided.
  • Allow credit cards and advance entries to be sold. 

Once again, where is the League during all of this? 

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