In the bad old days of the casinos—doesn’t matter where it was, Newport, Kentucky; Steubenville, Ohio; Biloxi, Mississippi; Long Beach, California; Reno, Nevada; or any town that lived on the wild side—security was a pretty simple operation. Patrons were “encouraged” to behave and follow the rules of the establishment—whether they were fair or not.
Surveillance consisted of floorwalkers, and in the swankier places, they had catwalks. To say things were calm might be an overstatement, but things were in control. But casinos were still targets, and security required constant attention to maintain that control.
Things aren’t much different today. Yes, patrons are safe from “kneecapping” and the strong-arm approach is a thing of the past, but the fact remains that casinos are still targets, and require the ultimate attention by security and surveillance.
In this issue, we present our annual section focusing on security and surveillance. We tie this section to the annual World Game Protection Conference produced by my friends Willy and Jo Allison. It’s one of my favorite conferences in the industry—alongside the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, scheduled for this May at ParkMGM in Las Vegas.
The WGPC reveals lots of the secrets of the gaming industry, from the scams that are attempted each year to eclectic speakers who emphasize why casinos sometimes attract the less-than-respectable elements of society. So the entire enterprise often rests on the professionalism of your security and surveillance departments. Attendance at WGPC should be mandatory for members of these departments—and above.
But as non-revenue-producing departments, security and surveillance often get the short shrift when it comes to the casino’s budget. As technology improves, requests to upgrade camera systems and servers often go unheeded.
I was shocked a few years ago when the cage at a major casino on the Las Vegas Strip was robbed by a motorcycle-helmet-wearing thief. I wasn’t shocked by the robbery, I was shocked by the video that was released—a scratchy and blurry analog clip that barely showed the shape of the robber. Today, most casinos have upgraded, but as we all know, technology is moving ahead faster than we can keep up, so loosen up the purse springs for these most important departments.
But the rash of hacking has also made security an important asset for the IT department. Andrew Cardo told me last year that stopping hacking altogether is impossible unless we cut off ties to all outside systems—something that is of course impossible in this digital age.
So we need to upgrade our defenses at all times. Especially the sports betting operators. There were at least a dozen attacks on databanks of sports betting operators in the past year, making it imperative that we put up an effective wall against these criminals. If we can’t protect our players’ precious data, how can the integrity of the industry be trusted?
Al Zajic’s article in this issue also brings up another element—the spread of weapons in the U.S. and around the world. He points out the increasing need for casinos to screen for weapons as patrons enter the building. We saw that in Las Vegas in the awful weeks following the October 1 shooting several years ago. It certainly was a bit intrusive, but casino visitors at that time were grateful that they could be confident of their safety as they played.
Those of us who have been to Macau understand that players there are accustomed to checkpoints as they enter the casino. Similar systems are in place in Europe, as well, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out how to install them strategically and discreetly.
Willy Allison’s story on vulnerability of ETGs and Bill Zender’s piece on the updated table game scams both get down to the nitty gritty. Casinos will always be opportunities for people who want to make an easy buck. We have to be aware of these efforts and continue to train not only our security and surveillance personnel, but also our dealers and slot techs about these vulnerabilities.
So we are proud each year to highlight these important departments in the casino industry. While they might not be revenue producers, they are revenue protectors, and a simple risk assessment should convince any casino president or general manager about the efficacy of devoting time, talent and capital to them.