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The IOU Patrol

An organized, proactive effort should be established to protect the company, patrons and employees.

The IOU Patrol

Most surveillance rooms don’t catch a lot of internal theft or crimes proactively, meaning we usually get tipped off about a dealer stealing or a slot floor person writing false jackpots. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Who wouldn’t take a nice, easy bust?

It’s just that those tips can be few and far between. And we all have been involved in one of those random detections that just happened to occur right in front of our cameras. Nothing wrong with that either.

There are many more crimes that occur than the ones we’re told about or that we just happen to come across. In fact, there are so many crimes that occur on any gaming property that surveillance can’t afford to depend on tips or random detections. If we do, our property will, at the very least, not be as profitable as it could be.


What to do?

One component of a successful, proactive surveillance operation (and there are many) is a systematic patrol of all areas of the property. Most agents feel they can catch more by looking at this area or that, but that is not always the case. Random patrols result in random detections. If there is cheating, theft or fraud in every department, as well as other problems and issues that we should get involved in, then how can we ever even have a chance of seeing more of it if we don’t look at those areas on a regular basis?

The technique that works best is called the “IOU patrol.” Some surveillance personnel use this technique already but haven’t given it a name. IOU is an acronym for “identify, observe and understand.” Most surveillance personnel will recognize each component of the IOU; it is combining them all into a consistent patrol that is different.



Identify with the camera each person in the area or on the game being patrolled. Maintain the camera on the person’s face long enough to provide a clear photo of the subject, if necessary. What we’re after here is 1) determine if the individual is a known bad guy, advantage player or someone surveillance is looking for;  and, 2) in the event it is determined later that the subject is a bad guy, you can go back and obtain a good identification.

We all know this can be critical. Note that a lot of surveillance agents just sweep the table looking for high action or obvious suspicious activity, and don’t look to see who’s there. If we can identify the bad guy before he gets started or before he’s cheated us out of untold thousands, we can react right away to stop or limit our loss.



Now we have to observe the play or activity. We must actually “see” what we’re observing. What kind of play is on the game? What types of individuals are in the area? How are they positioned around the slot machine? What are the employees doing? We all know that the bad guys and bad employees will try hiding their scam or theft from us, so we have to look past the obvious, the normal. Again, a lot of surveillance folks just cruise by looking for something to occur right in front of them. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way. We must look for our tells: blockers around a machine, big money next to small money, no receipt issued to a guest, player betting max at the top of a shoe, player varying bets, etc., to get our undivided attention.



We must “understand” the activity or play before we move on. If there are what appear to be blockers around a slot machine, we must understand why. Do the blockers pose an actual threat? Are they up to something? Who are they? The patrolling agent has located a tell (the indicator) of cheating. He or she must resolve (understand) why the tell is present before moving on. It is the same for the other tells described above. In essence, when you see something that is indicative of cheating, theft, fraud or advantage play, you must continue observation until you’ve determined that it’s not an actual situation requiring a response. Then, and only then, can you move on to the next table or area.

Please note that the IOU patrol can take anywhere from two minutes to eight hours for a game or area. It may take moments to identify one player on a specific blackjack game and observe his play to understand that he is a known player, betting $5 flat.

On the other hand, it could take up to eight hours (or more) to determine why the same players on mini-baccarat are winning consistently. In the first case, there is strong reason to believe all is well. In the second case, we can’t explain why the players are winning as they are, and must remain until we can do so. If we leave that question open, it only invites disaster.


Getting it Accomplished

Assign your staff into IOU patrol sectors—one agent to table games, one to slots, and one to all others (bars, cages, back of the house, etc.), for example. Of course, the number of personnel you have will dictate the assignments. The important thing is to have an agent assigned to, at the very least, your critical areas. These are normally table games and slots, but nowadays players clubs (and lots of other areas) aren’t far behind. Each gaming property is different. Patrol more often where your risk/threats are coming from and losses are occurring.

Once an agent is assigned to a patrol sector he or she must start at a definable point. Wherever they start, it should be logged as such with the time of the patrol and when it is ended. The reason for this is when someone needs to go back on the video (and you will) to locate an individual or incident, you will be able to check the log to determine where your patrols were at that specific time to help you find your subject more quickly. 

When the agent has completed the IOU of a section, he should move to the second in a definable pattern. IOU each window or position where an employee and/or a guest is present. Observe and understand the activities of the cashier or bartender and/or guest. Employees of all departments have controls, policies and procedures to follow. In most cases, they must violate a control or break a policy or procedure to commit theft or fraud. That is what the agent must look for—the tell that indicates something may be going on.

In the case of a violation of control or procedure, why did the employee break the procedure? Is it because he requires further training, or is it because he is stealing? This observation can be resolved by reporting it to the department manager if it is just a training or discipline issue, but should continue if the employee is breaking the procedure because he is stealing.

The IOU patrol format works. I’ve personally used it to detect crime and other serious issues. I have always required the agents within my departments to use the patrol. It is my belief that we have detected more crime and scams using this method than any other we’ve tried and we did it, in most cases, without having to be informed or notified by another department or tip.

Additionally, the number of cases or problems we were able to solve because we had an excellent identification shot of an individual obtained during an IOU are too numerous to count. Any surveillance agent worth his or her salt knows that there is nothing better than having an ID shot when you need it. I always say that surveillance is deadly when we have an identification of someone who is going to jail. Knowing who we’re looking for allows us to focus on that specific person or those persons, and then it’s just a matter of time until the problem is resolved.

Remember, there is crime occurring in every casino, every day, every shift, somewhere on your property, if not in multiple locations. It is the surveillance department’s duty and responsibility to find the crime and stop the loss. Only a structured patrol will help you do that.

Derk J. Boss, CFE, CPP, CSP, is the president of the International Association of Certified Surveillance Professionals. He is co-author (with Alan W. Zajic) of the recently published Casino Security and Gaming Surveillance.

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