2016 SURVEILLANCE & SECURITY: Get Real

Lessons for land-based casinos from the live casino world

Just as with land-based gaming, in the exciting new world of live casino online gambling, great importance is placed on game security and integrity. As in bricks-and-mortar casinos, the threat of cheating and collusion is ever-present. And just as there are some very clever and ethical software developers out there, so there are also a great many cyber-criminals intent on defrauding and embarrassing major brands.

The problem is, how does a casino protect itself against players it cannot see?

Evolution Gaming has a team of around 200 risk-related employees. The company employs 1,200-plus dealers and has a total headcount of over 1,800 focused on game integrity and risk.

The company has developed a tailor-made anti-fraud department. Every day, the team monitors the live casino operations of 120-plus tables, over 70 casino operators—with up to 7,000 concurrent players and approaching 6 million bets per day.

Evolution has developed innovative anti-fraud defense mechanisms such as Evo Shuffle Integrity to combat blackjack advantage play, and Evo Wheel Integrity, a proactive and automated surveillance tool for monitoring roulette wheel performance. The company protects the game using automated surveillance.

This approach includes state-of-the-art red-flag systems and software solutions that detect abnormal betting strategies that may indicate cheating, collusion and advantage play.

Many of these techniques could—and perhaps should—be used in the land-based sector to tighten security.

Surely, there are distinct differences between online and land-based operations. For example, house rules in most land-based casinos typically outlaw the use of smartphones, tablets, cameras, recording equipment and other technology by customers on the gaming floor. By contrast, the games and patterns at an online casino can easily be recorded and scrutinized by any number of remote players and potential or actual cyber criminals working under the cover of the internet.

However, there is much common ground. Also, convergence solutions such as Evolution’s Dual Play Roulette (which allows online players to play at the same land-based table as land-based players) increasingly blur the dividing line.

So what can the long-established land-based casino sector learn from the relatively young upstart that is live casino? Plenty, as it turns out.

There are still those who subscribe to the “We’ve always done it this way, so it must be right” school of thought, but it seems their numbers are diminishing.

Security and fraud issues are typically primary concerns for land-based operators, but after seeing Evolution’s operations they invariably leave with a great many ideas for how to improve their own security.

Data, Intelligence

As in all security operations, data collection and intelligence are key. In Evolution’s operations every single bet, every card and the outcomes of every game round are recorded.

Historical data can be accessed at any time, and clear visual presentation means the risk team can quickly spot abnormal or suspicious player behavior.

When effective data tracking is employed, it’s possible to put automated and smart traces in place and observe the betting patterns and activity of specific players.

At the same time, areas of operational best practice have a key role to play in improving game protection and security—minimizing the dealer’s influence on the game and its outcome, staff motivation and incentive programmed and, critically, a close relationship between operations and risk management teams.

The development of red-flag systems, dashboards and control functions, including the tagging and surveillance of suspicious players, is crucial to game integrity with live casino.

Clearly, technology must be embraced in the war against cyber crime. You cannot fight a tech-savvy opponent with old-school defenses.

Growth and Opportunities

That live casino is the fastest growing sector in online gaming is no surprise. In recent years, live casino has grown substantially in Europe and, according to data from H2GC, was expected to grow by about 22 percent in terms of gross gaming revenues in 2015.

Market growth is influenced by several underlying factors, such as increased use of mobile phones, technological advances with, among other things, improved hardware and increased bandwidth, the migration of land-based casinos to online environments and market regulations.

Growth is also driven to a large extent by live casino having grown in importance for most gaming operators, who consequently elect to expose and market their live offerings to customers more extensively than before.

Regulation is an important growth factor for live casino, because it brings more potential end users and gives operators greater opportunities to promote the product.

New challenges emerge every week, not least because of the continuing phenomenal growth of mobile play on a plethora of tablets and smartphones.

For Evolution, that requires the optimization of each live casino game for each specific device. The company takes an omni-channel approach. Quality and security standards, and the customer experience in general, must be consistently high whether the player is on a desktop PC or Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet or smartphone—or, for that matter, playing on digital TV or on an EGM.

But, of course, the larger the number of access channels to live casino, the more thorough and vigilant operators must be.

Tomorrow’s multi-channel online gaming market will undoubtedly throw up new challenges, but there’s a proven and highly successful formula in place—with R&D, operations and game integrity all closely aligned.

Re-regulation of gaming markets is another challenge, with each jurisdiction setting different rules and different regulators setting specific data flows and financial reporting criteria.

The one constant would appear to be the sure fact that live casino—with its greatly multiplied player numbers and complex multi-channel operations—will continue to set the pace in game protection. Land-based operators need to be sure they are not left behind.

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Tania Johannisson is head of game integrity and risk at live casino provider Evolution Gaming. Johannisson will speak at the World Game Protection Conference (WGPC) on February 23.