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State v. Bridges

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 18, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
LONNIE L. BRIDGES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-15-600431-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Thomas A. Rein

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor BY: Jonathan Block Mary M. Frey Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys The Justice Center,

          BEFORE: E.A. Gallagher, A.J., McCormack, J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN A. GALLAGHER, ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Lonnie Bridges appeals his convictions for gambling in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         {¶2} Bridges was charged with five counts of gambling in violation of R.C. 3772.99(E)(5) and three counts of gambling in violation of R.C. 3772.99(E)(7). The case proceeded to a jury trial where the following facts were adduced.

         {¶3} On July 25, 2015, Bridges, Kenneth Young and a third unidentified male companion entered the Horseshoe Casino[1] in Cleveland, Ohio and gambled at the craps table designated as number 502. While gambling at table 502, the three men cumulatively won over $39, 000, including $18, 465 on their final roll. Jennifer Trnavsky, the table supervisor, became suspicious of the dice rolls being thrown by the men because the rolls appeared to be too low to the table. After Bridges threw the final winning roll, Trnavsky alerted her supervisor and casino surveillance because she was concerned the men might be sliding the dice.

         {¶4} The actions of Bridges, Young and the unidentified male were brought to the attention of Agent Jason Slarb of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, a state regulatory authority that oversees the operation of the casinos in Ohio. Agent Slarb is a state law enforcement officer who is posted inside the casino and investigates gaming-related crimes.

         {¶5} Slarb described the technique of "sliding dice" as preemptively setting the dice to the number on which you want them to come to a stop and then throwing them in a manner such that they only spin horizontally with the desired number on top throughout the entire roll. Executed correctly, the dice do not rotate vertically or "tumble" but rather lands on the craps table and spins or "slides" to a stop with the desired number showing. This technique requires skill and, when executed successfully, the individual throwing the dice is able to spin the dice such that they result in the desired numbers for the thrower to win his wager.

         {¶6} Sliding the dice, even when the thrower is only partially successful in that one of the dice spins and the other tumbles, drastically alters the element of chance in the game of craps because certain outcomes are eliminated and the odds of the desired outcome being produced are increased. When the thrower is completely successful in that he is able to spin both dice simultaneously, the thrower will have assured himself a winning wager through his manipulation of the dice. The walls of the craps table operate to force dice to tumble and a correct roll is required to strike the walls to ensure unpredictability. However, the testimony at trial established that table operators rarely call a "no roll" when the thrower fails to strike the walls. A dice slider aims for the dice to come to a stop short of the wall so as to ensure that the spun die does not tumble as a result of striking the wall. Even when a dice slider is only partially successful in that only one of the two dice slides as intended, other gamblers at the table can be harmed in that certain dice outcomes upon which they have wagered are rendered unobtainable.

         {¶7} Slarb presented surveillance video of 26 different throws executed by Bridges, Young and their companion at table 502. Of the 26 throws presented to the jury, six of the throws appear to represent legitimate throws where the dice tumbled and/or intentionally struck the walls of the craps table generating a truly random result. Agent Slarb testified that it was a common practice for dice sliders to mix legitimate throws into their pattern to mask their sliding attempts.

         {¶8} The remaining 20 throws were attempted slides of the dice with varying success. Of those 20 throws Bridges threw four times, Young six times and the third man ten times. Slarb testified that the three men were all constantly betting together based on each other's rolls at the table. The relevant bets were placed on specific outcomes such as "hard sixes" or "hard eights" that required the dice outcome to be double threes or double fours, respectively. Michael DePinto, a game shift manager at the casino, also testified that in his review of the surveillance footage the men would only place such bets when one of the three of them was rolling the dice as opposed to when an unaffiliated gambler at the table was rolling. In each of the 20 throws the surveillance video reflected, at a minimum, an attempt to slide one or both of the dice on a number consistent with the specific wagers the men had placed on the table.

         {¶9} Agent Slarb testified that physical positioning of a player at the craps table is an important component to dice sliding. The ideal dice sliding location at the table is directly to the left of the "stick person" because the stick person is responsible for watching the roll of the dice. When positioned directly to the stick person's left, the thrower is able to shorten the length of the table that the dice must travel, reducing the time for the stick person to view the dice. The surveillance video revealed that Bridges, Young and their companion repeatedly exchanged positions with one another to ensure that whichever of the three was throwing would always throw from the ideal dice-sliding position.

         {¶10} In addition to showing the sliding rather than tumbling of the dice across the table, the surveillance footage also reflected the three men repeatedly and meticulously preparing the dice for their intended throw. When the stick man would use the stick to drag the dice to one of the men for them to pick up and throw, the thrower would routinely pick out a die that was already pre-positioned with the desired number showing or manipulate the dice on the table with his hand until they turned to such number. Only then would the thrower pick up the dice and begin his attempt to slide.

         {¶11} Finally, Agent Slarb and Horseshoe casino personnel detailed distractionary techniques employed by the three men to occupy the attention of the table's dealers during the throws and minimize the opportunity of the dealers to view the sliding of the dice. These techniques included throwing in late wagers with chips and unnecessarily forcing the dealers to conduct cash transactions during rolls despite the ready availability of chips. The men also gave the dealers tips in the form of bets placed on their rolls that ...


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