Pa. man says he stalked and killed Atlantic City casino manager because gambling halls cheat

MAYS LANDING, N.J. (AP) — Mark Magee walked into the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort last year with a grudge and a gun.

He believed the casino — like the 10 others in Atlantic City — cheats gamblers by electronically manipulating the outcome of table games like roulette and craps.

And because of that, he felt, someone needed to die.

Monday morning, Magee admitted in court that he fatally shot Ray Kot, a veteran shift manager at the Taj Mahal, whom he knew from regularly gambling there.

On May 27, 2009, with a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket, loaded with five bullets, Magee bided his time for hours, waiting until Kot walked away from the crowded casino floor.

"I didn't want to hurt anybody else," Magee told a judge Monday.

When Kot walked into a card and dice room, just off the casino floor, Magee followed him, told a security guard to move aside, and fired three shots into Kot's body.

It was the only murder inside an Atlantic City casino in the 32-year history of legalized gambling here.

"My belief is casinos, not just the Taj Mahal but all the casinos in Atlantic City, are cheats," Magee said. "I believe the tables are electronically controlled. I base that on 25 years of experience.

"That is my belief. I stand by that belief," he continued. "I welcome an examination."

His guilty plea to murder calls for the 58-year-old Norristown, Pa., man to serve at least 30 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 12.

Kot had been with the Taj Mahal since it opened in 1990.

A Chinese immigrant, he arrived in the U.S. in 1970, alone and unable to speak English at age 18. He worked menial jobs at boardwalk gift shops and in hotel restaurants. He struggled to support himself while setting aside money to someday bring his parents and two sisters to the United States as well.

During his career as a supervisor at the Taj Mahal, Kot was known as a peacemaker — a gentle, unflappable soul skilled at defusing the difficult and potentially volatile situations that can arise when money, alcohol and stress mix on the gambling floor.

Taj Mahal management said Magee had gambled there for years and had interacted with Kot numerous times, but never in a contentious way. Indeed, Magee told the judge he knew Kot from previous trips to the casino, describing himself as "a regular customer."

Entering the casino that morning, Magee waited until he felt the time was right to attack.

"I followed him all day, stalking him," Magee said. "I was going to kill him."

On hearing those words, Kot's widow, Nancy, convulsed in sobs and doubled over on a hard wooden bench inside the courtroom as family members hugged and tried to console her.

Magee was not finished, however, his words as bloodless as his pallid demeanor.

"I waited a few minutes" as Kot walked away from the table games and into a small room just off the casino floor, he said. "I asked the security guard to move. I just walked in and shot him (Kot) three times. I take full responsibility."

Kot's family was too distraught after the court hearing to speak with reporters. Mark Juliano, CEO of Trump Entertainment Resorts, who sat with them during the session, spoke on behalf of the family.

"The incredibly cold-blooded recitation of the day was shocking," he said. "There really are evil people in the world."

Kot's widow and children "are still struggling with the 'why,' as is everyone else," Juliano said. "His explanation is, of course, ludicrous."

In entering his guilty plea, Magee told the judge he had been treated for depression 10 years earlier, but said he was not under the effect of any medication Monday, asserting he was thinking clearly in admitting his guilt.

On Tuesday, a street corner in Atlantic City near the casino will be named "Ray Kot Place" in his honor.