Casino surveillance trends
Advances in surveillance technology are making gaming environments safer now and will continue to do so into the future
Ocean’s Eleven. Casino. 21. The idea of outwitting a casino and walking away with millions of dollars is so alluring to the public at large that an entire subgenre of movies has sprung up around it, and its impact can be felt throughout Hollywood.
Popular comedies like The Hangover have leaned on it as a plot device. James Bond himself played with the idea in Casino Royale. And Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman rode the concept all the way to an Academy Award for Best Picture in Rain Man. For whatever reason, the idea of walking into a casino with nothing and walking out with millions of dollars—earned or unearned—has lodged firmly in the public consciousness.
With that in mind, it should come as little surprise that security is a hot topic in the casino world. True, the Danny Oceans of the world are few and far between, and your average casino isn’t particularly worried about a rag-tag group of crooks and swindlers clearing out the vault with a perfectly choreographed plan. In real life, the vulnerabilities are much simpler, and they tend to come in the form of small-time cheats and fraudsters, unscrupulous employees and, of course, the security threats associated with large crowds. Casinos must have the ability to provide a safe and secure environment for both employees and guests, and modern advancements in surveillance technology have greatly enhanced their ability to do so. Here are some examples and trends to note a follow:
• The improving logistics of casino security. Advancements in camera technology have provided casinos with one of their most valuable security tools: the 360 camera. Until recently, 360-degree cameras were not allowed to be used as a gaming camera in Nevada casinos—and since the Nevada Gaming Regulations generally set the standard for casinos elsewhere, their use was relatively rare. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, and casinos have recognized that one 360-degree camera is capable of monitoring an area that would have required multiple conventional cameras. Given that the largest casino in the world, Oklahoma’s WinStar World Casino, has 600,000 square feet of floor to protect, efficient camera deployments can make a huge difference when it comes to security.
This level of security is necessary for a variety of reasons. First, casinos are required to have a significant amount of cash on hand. Those in the industry estimate the even the smallest urban casinos hold over $1 million at any given time—more than enough to entice would-be thieves, even those not capable of planning an elaborate heist. That alone makes casinos potential targets for premeditated robbery, but the presence of money, alcohol and sizable crowds contribute to an environment that can be relaxing for some, but stressful for others. Add the potential for violence in this sort of environment and that raises the stakes for casino security, and the ability to identify potentially dangerous situations in real time becomes critical.
The problem is exacerbated by the rise of e-sports, which has become a popular fixture in casinos. This manifests in two ways: first, casinos are increasingly providing an e-sports area for children and teens to entertain themselves while their parents spend time in the casino, and the introduction of additional children to the casino environment necessitates increased security. Second, casinos are beginning to host large e-sports events in their own right, and with those events come growing crowds and substantial bets. These events also attract large numbers of young people, and large crowds in relatively confined areas, meaning casino security must rise to a new level to ensure safety.
• Casinos benefit from significant advancements in surveillance technology. If you’ve seen any of the movies mentioned in the introduction to this article, chances are you’ve seen the way casino security control rooms are depicted: a large room with dozens of monitors focusing on gaming tables, entrances and exits, and other high-traffic areas. In fact, this image isn’t far from the truth—but fortunately, modern technology allows casinos to monitor those screens more effectively than the lone, overworked security guard often depicted in cinema.
Analytics has begun to take off in the casino industry, and the resulting glut of information has allowed casinos to not only protect the people inside, but increase efficiency while they do it. The rise of things like people counting and heat mapping technology has helped casinos better understand when and where guests are congregating, the amount of time they spend in certain areas, and where they find themselves frustrated by choke points and other irritations. This can help security personnel root out anomalous behavior, such as a large crowd gathering in a typically empty area, while also helping them identify areas where an improved layout might help facilitate freer movement from one table to another.
Some casinos are taking things a step further. Just last year, Japan overturned its gambling ban, and has been moving forward with plans to construct its first casino. Japan’s technology-first approach stands in contrast to Nevada casinos, which are often late adopters of new technology, and early plans have indicated that the Japanese casino will adopt a highly integrated approach. Efforts will be made to use facial recognition to track patrons from the moment they enter the casino, allowing employees to identify a potential high roller and provide the appropriate level of customer service immediately. The technology will also be used to monitor players and how long they are gambling, allowing the casino to regulate the number of hours someone can stay in a casino.
While the U.S. is unlikely to use facial recognition technology to curtail the number of hours that individuals are permitted to gamble, the technology has many potential applications from a security perspective. The ability to identify known cheaters from the moment they walk in can help casinos protect their bottom line. Perhaps more importantly, facial recognition can grant casinos the ability to ban those who have engaged in violent or inappropriate behavior and remain confident that they will be identified and turned away should they attempt to return. This is something many casino workers have lobbied in favor of for some time, and a recent survey of the Chicago hospitality industry highlights why: 77 percent of casino workers surveyed have experienced sexual harassment at the hands of a guest. The ability to identify and ban those guilty of such acts can help both guests and employees feel safer and more secure.
One final note: as important as surveillance is to providing physical security, it is critical that casinos avoid overlooking the importance of cybersecurity. Without adequate protections, thieves could potentially hack into a casino’s surveillance network, accessing cameras monitoring the casino floor and using them to help perpetrate crimes. The Crown casino in Melbourne, Australia learned this the hard way, as thieves stole more than $32 million by using the casino’s own cameras to spy on poker hands while using a $3 earpiece to transmit the information to their player at the table.
Unprotected surveillance devices can cost casinos a pretty penny, but they also represent a potential privacy concern for guests. Today’s technology has the potential to revolutionize casino security, but protecting access to that technology is critical.
• Building a safer future for the casino industry. Casinos in the movies might need to worry about George Clooney walking through the door with a speaker in his ear and a foolproof plan in his head, but real-life casinos require a more comprehensive approach to security. Keeping both guests and the employees they interact with safe isn’t just an obligation—it’s an expectation. Today’s technology has made it easier than ever to effectively monitor even the most chaotic casino floor, alerting security personnel to anomalous behavior and identifying potentially dangerous situations before they arise. The future is bright for casino security, ensuring that players will continue to enjoy dreams of glory and riches for many years to come.