Lessons Learned from the Casino Floor

Douglas Florence and Jessie Beaudoin share best practices and strategies developed in the evolution of their successful security and surveillance program at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

"Any coverage being saved - even if it doesn't necessarily show the incident - is always better than no coverage at all," Beaudoin continues. "Fraudulent claims can cost a company thousands of dollars monthly."

Also, he says it is important to remember that just because the person does not need medical attention at the time of the incident, does not mean that they will not return a few weeks later - after the video is no longer available - reporting injuries.

When the investigation is concluded, Risk Management should be contacted and given the results of the review. In every case, Risk Management should be asked to review the coverage, so they can make a fair, concise decision on how to proceed.

Keep the Cameras Rolling: Another best practice should be immediate initiation of video coverage prior to any officer approaching a patron in the casino. For instance, if Security is arriving to a bar to deal with a rowdy guest that was brought to their attention, they should always notify the surveillance team prior to approaching the person, and the surveillance team should verbally acknowledge when coverage is initiated.

"This process helps ensure better protection for the responding officer and that optimal coverage can be obtained if the incident gets out of control," Beaudoin says.

Technological Evolution Impacts Security

Evolution of technology has made the job of casino security and surveillance easier - mainly because it has become much harder for crooks to steal from casinos. Here are some examples:

Slot Machines: "There were 100 ways a slot machine could be ripped off internally or externally when they were operated on coins," Florence says. All slot machines at HRH have been converted from coin-operated to ticket-in/ticket-out - and while the new machines can still be ripped off, the scams are typically more sophisticated and happen a lot less often, Florence adds.

Liquor guns: Many establishments are moving towards or have premium liquors only being offered on liquor guns that pre-measure the amount of liquor disbursed and automatically ring up the drink to the register. If a guest wants two shots, liquor guns ensure that two shots are charged. "This minimizes the act of bartenders free pouring or intentionally over pouring using jiggers or shot glasses in an effort to get a larger tip from the guest," Florence says.

Surveillance Strategies

Just as the technology has evolved, so have the surveillance techniques employed by Beaudoin and Florence. "These days in surveillance rooms, we use the data to lead us into the crimes," Beaudoin says. "For example, instead of just watching a bar or nightclub for incidents of theft and hoping to be watching the right employee or guest at the right time, we in Surveillance audit and fine-tooth-comb the reports in the area to lead us to red flags or theft indicators."

Prior to monitoring a bar, the surveillance team runs reports for no sales, voids, refunds, revenue, etc., to determine (based on that data) who or where attention should be focused.

The same concept applies to data mining of Security and Surveillance reports. "If we see a spike in reported incidents of theft or illegal activity in a nightclub or other area within the establishment, we will turn this area into a focal point to catch the criminals," Beaudoin says.

Newer technology, such as pinhole cameras, wireless Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), and point-of-sale interfaces that enable the surveillance team to see exactly what is taking place in real time are more tools in a surveillance team's arsenal.

It is important to remember in nightclubs or other low-light areas that black-and-white cameras are optimal, Beaudoin says. "These tools, combined with teamwork and a close working relationship with security, will deter crime in your establishment and lead to more proactive catches," he says.

Paul Rothman is managing editor of Security Technology Executive