There's a new warning for travellers after a Canadian couple was scammed out of thousands of dollars while staying at a Dominican resort. Jay Lush and Steve Bungay were enjoying a tropical beach vacation in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic when they decided to visit the casino on the resort, a choice, they say, that ended up costing them thousands.
Lush and Bungay were staying at the Hotel Riu Bambu. They visited the Diamante Casino, which is on site but isn't actually run by Riu. They say the casino gave the couple complimentary $25 chips to get started and quickly ushered them into some sort of roulette game that neither of them understood. All of a sudden, they say they were told if they wanted to keep playing it would cost them $1200, that's when they wanted out. It turns out, however, that they somehow now owed the casino $6200.
Guards escorted the couple out to an ATM in the street and demanded they get all the money immediately. To make matters, worse Lush had given his driver's license as ID when he sat down at the table and couldn't get it back until he paid. Lush and Bungay say that at this point, they believed they had been scammed by the casino.
They say that, eventually, they had paid all the money and were allowed to leave the casino, and even given free bags of coffee as a thank you gift. The couple was far from thankful though.
Lush told CBC that as they were leaving "I just kept saying to Steve, 'Let's just go to the room, I don't want to talk about this.' I felt like we got assaulted. I was embarrassed. I was horrified. I felt so stupid that we fell for something like this."
They aren't the only ones who claim to have fallen for this scam. A quick search of Trip Advisor reviews reveals that multiple people say they have fallen victim to the exact same situation with the confusing roulette game. The reviews also reveal that people have been reporting incidents like this for years.
Way back in 2010, a review from Trip Advisor warns travellers: "do not get conned into the progressive game that is being run out of this casino. Be smarter than we were. it is very easy to get hooked. Do not under any circumstances provide your credit card to any casino staff. While the game itself is a scam, credit card fraud is the bigger issue. Look up "Scammed at the Riu Punta Cana" and you will see many versions of our own experience. Don't let being dupped ruin your vacation."
In a review from 2014, another Trip Advisor member says "Yes, my husband and I were scammed much to our embarrassment. Being accustomed to casinos, I guess we assumed that a casino associated with the Riu hotel chain would be legitimate." They go on to describe the same roulette game Lush and Bungay fell victim to. "After being taken into a back office, we felt pressure to pay, regardless of what we saw. We were in a foreign country, with bullies. What were we to do?" the review says.
Yet another review from 2017 recounts a similar story. It says "We lost over $5,000 US in a progressive roulette casino game that you CANNOT WIN." They again describe the exact same scam and say "A real shame that a nice resort like RIU would allow this to happen on their property. DO NOT GO INTO THIS CASINO OR ANY PRIVATE CASINO ... YOU WILL WASTE YOUR VACATION."
There are several other reviews just like this, with stories of travellers claiming they too, unfortunately, lost thousands of dollars.
As for Lush and Bungay, they say they went to the hotel manager to complain but claim they were laughed away. Sunwing, who they booked the trip through, moved them to another resort for the duration of their trip.
Narcity has reached out to Riu for comment and we will update this story when we receive a response.