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There's No Crying in Surveillance

Top five challenges for the industry

There's No Crying in Surveillance

Over 25 years in the casino industry, I have worked for some great organizations and one not-so-great organization (you know who you are). I have also had the opportunity and privilege to “pay it forward” through institutions like the University of Nevada Reno, University of Nevada Las Vegas and Nichols College, as well as organizations like World Game Protection, ASIS and G2E.

These relationships allowed me to grow both professionally and personally, and I truly appreciate everything that I have learned from the many students and attendees of the various classes and lectures I have participated in. I want to share my top five issues facing casino surveillance today.

 

1. Training and Education

There was a time in this industry when surveillance training was the single most important part of becoming a surveillance professional. You had to be the best and the brightest to get into surveillance. The jobs were coveted. You didn’t just apply but were invited to join. Some departments invest time and money training staff to help develop their skills. There are some who want to train their staff but are restricted from doing so due to a variety of reasons, and there are some who just don’t care and have given up.

For those who want to do training but don’t, consider this: If executives want to improve profit margins, they have to invest some money in training their surveillance department. Every dollar that surveillance saves is a dollar that goes directly to the bottom line. Don’t wait until after you have been scammed to make these types of decisions.

If your casino is in the “don’t care” category, you probably started off with the right attitude but somewhere along the way you simply gave up. At this point you have two choices: Find a way to get your fire going again or wait for it to go out and be miserable. The choice is yours, and you set the example for your team; if you don’t care, then they won’t care.

 

2. Accuracy

Surveillance should not be a guessing game. We are in the information business. When I worked in the security department, I used to get reports back from surveillance that the video review was inconclusive. What does this mean? More importantly, what does this suggest? I understand that it means that surveillance cannot tell exactly what happened, but the person making the request doesn’t hear that. They hear “I didn’t do the review” or “I don’t know what I am doing so I will say inconclusive.”

Accuracy counts in our business, and it’s the difference between making the right decision for our organization and making the wrong decision, which could cost us some business. Always exhaust all possibilities and be thorough. Look into everything and give management the information they need to succeed.

 

3. Innovation

“We don’t know what we don’t know” applies in this situation. Surveillance has come a long way since the days of catwalks and VCRs, but so has the rest of the industry. There are some analytics and dataveillance concepts floating around out there in our world, but they aren’t where they need to be yet. This is one of those untapped resources that I firmly believe will help improve profit margins and have a far-reaching effect on the entire organization. Think about how much fraud could be occurring behind the scenes on the system side. The cost of comp fraud and comp abuse alone could easily justify the implementation of this type of technology. I did a comp fraud/abuse scenario and was able to determine that an average-sized casino is probably losing $750,000 to $1.5 million annually. Now that’s a lot of cheese.

 

4. Accountability

Nobody likes excuses, and this is especially true in surveillance. There is absolutely no reason for it when all systems are go and you are staffed up correctly. I opened a casino a number of years ago, and the system install didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. There were a number of items that needed to be fixed, and it took us nearly two years to get everything done. I could have easily said this is construction’s fault and not done anything until the construction team made it right. Instead, I took ownership of the issues and went about fixing them. Don’t get me wrong; I voiced my displeasure with the job they had done. But that wasn’t going to get things fixed.

 

5. Access to Information

This is an area that I am sad to say is lacking all too often in the casino industry. Surveillance does not have enough access to information to help the casino be successful. In some cases, it could be that surveillance simply never asked for the information, and other cases it’s because management does not want to make that information available to surveillance. We are supposed to look at the daily flash report and provide an answer to our management and regulators before they ask the tough questions. We are supposed to know what’s going on in our casino and we are expected to act on this information in a thoughtful and methodical way.

Surveillance is the last line of defense in the casino business, and our guests, employees and stakeholders have an expectation that we are there to protect and preserve the integrity of the enterprise. Should they expect any less?

Well, that’s inconclusive at this time, but I would say that without the right leadership, tools and access to information, we will be severely handicapped. In addition, we can’t make excuses or shift blame when things go wrong. If you don’t ask for and provide a business case for training, equipment, information and other resources, then you probably won’t get them.

Darrin Hoke is the director of surveillance at L'Auberge du Lac Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Hoke has also held various positions in security management, investigations and law enforcement, and  has developed a number of surveillance classes and programs over the past 10 years as a regular instructor with the University of Nevada, Reno gaming management division.  

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