Frank Santamorena, PSP is the president of Security Experts Consulting & Design LLC, located in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; www.Security-Experts.us
Casinos function as many other commercial properties do in that they have a fudiciary responsibility in mitigating their risks. They are looking to leverage security investments to help create business value and acquire technology to enhance the effectiveness of their security investments. The "HOW" to use that technology on the operations side is by far the more difficult side of the equation. In order to know what technologies should be implemented and deployed depends on the risks to be mitigated. As any responsible party should do, a proper TARA (threat and risk assessment) should initially be conducted. The TARA will identify and determine the proper policies, procedures and processes needed in order to design and deliver integrated security solutions. These solutions must combine physical security with alarm systems, access control, video management, visitor management, fire and life safety integration, building automation, and the integration of POS (point of sale).
On the opportunities side of the equation, funding availability does vary for Indian casinos versus privately-held casinos. Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 which acknowledged the right of Native American tribes to institute gambling and gaming facilities on their reservations if those states where they are located have some form of legalized gambling. The intended proceeds Congress perceived from Indian gaming would be used to restore the tribal government sovereignty and integrity of tribal governments. The Indian Gambling Special Distribution Fund (SDF) is a state-controlled account available for appropriation by the legislature only for gambling-related purposes under the state's compacts with various Indian tribes. Privately-held casinos do not have this entitlement. They are only granted the ability to establish gambling enterprises mandated by state regulation. Their funding comes from private equity firms, Angel investors, Hedge Funds, Venture Capitalists, Umbrella companies and many other types of Wealth Funds in the private sector.
The risks are there, no matter the type of property. Millions of patrons and billions of dollars are generated in casinos. So the likelihood of theft, externally as well as internally, continues to be problematic. Casinos must keep a vigilant eye on their own employees and patrons, yet still satisfy gaming commission regulations. There are strict regulations and specifications for gambling businesses "monitoring." Policies, procedures and processes, as well as certain protocols for surveillance and security, are an operational function as well as a security function. And the balance must take into consideration the laws in place for that state through its gaming commissions. The new technologies pose dilemmas as they must adapt regulations to allow for new enabled by IP and analytics capabilities.
As far as current equipment, take a look at any casino in the U.S., and what one may find out is that they are in a burdensome transition from analog to digital recording and as they update their cameras from analog to digital for its surveillance systems. Depending on where they might be at this moment depends on their specific state standards, the age and the size of the security infrastructure that's existing and just exactly how much the owner is willing to spend (it still is a matter of fiscal responsibility, i.e., economics). Yet everyone in the security industry seems to agree that even though casinos are moving quicker into the newest of technology, it won't be all that long before the transition to HD and megapixel cameras dominate their industries. Walk into many casinos today and there may still be 2,000 or more analog cameras of a variety of technologies. Here lies the opportunity to address the "shelf life" of some of these ancient ancestors by knowing the questions to ask the owner so they see the benefits to converting and upgrading to newer technologies.
Casinos need to run their establishments without feeling as if they operate in a guarded, Fort Knox-type mentality. They need to have their patrons carefully and discreetly screened, initially upon entering, and controlled so that they do not present a threat or risk. Thorough risk assessments are the place to begin the successful process.
Frank Santamorena PSP is a Principal at Ducibella Venter & Santore (DVS), one of the oldest and independent security consulting and engineering firms in the U.S. He has more than 20 years of experience working in security and life safety systems design and was the Security Expert and Advisor on the Discovery Channel series "It Takes a Thief."