A banned casino gambler from Hendon has been sentenced under an ancient law, never used before in an English court, for his role in an elaborate roulette scam.

Martin Fitz, 45, of Wheatley Close, Hendon, was sentenced to an unspecified length of community service for cheating at play, contrary to the Gaming Act 1845'.

Fitz, alongside two other men, was exposed by the Metropolitan Police's clubs and vice gaming unit.

Its investigation uncovered evidence of a complex dupe known in the business as top hatting', which relies on the dealer, casino inspector, the casino's remote security staff and other players all being distracted at the crucial point in the game when the roulette ball drops. This buys the cheats a couple of seconds, allowing them to sneak chips on to the relevant number.

Police said the scam could have defrauded thousands of pounds from casinos throughout London if it hadn't been spotted by casino security.

Also sentenced at Middlesex Guildhall Court, were Martin Kwong Lee, 42, of Mitcham, Surrey, who was sentenced to a 180-hour community punishment order and a £170 fine for one count of cheating, and Shuhal Miah, 36, of Bethnal Green, who was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge and required to repay £880 for two counts of cheating.

Kwong Lee and Miah were arrested in October 2003 at Gal Russell Square Casino in Holborn where the scam had initially been picked up.

The Met's design studio re-enacted the scam using computer animation for the court.

Detective Constable John Wedger, from the Met's gaming unit, said: "This was a well-thought through and skilful cheating scam.

"Lee, Fitz, and Miah were prolific gamblers and used numerous identities to gain access to casinos to which they had nationally been banned."

Mr Wedger added that the casino's security staff should be commended for the vigilance and investigation, ensuring that the scam was spotted early.

"As a result of their suspicions, we carried out a thorough investigation to provide the evidence which led to their guilty pleas,"

he said.