At the Frontline: A Q&A with Casino Security Consultant Alan Zajic

Zajic addresses advantage gambling, CCTV operator management and the issue of RFID tags in casino chips

[Editor’s note:] The following is from a joint Security Technology & Design and interview with Alan W. Zajic, the owner of AWZ Consultants, a consulting company specializing in casino security. The other half of Zajic’s interview appears in the March issue of Security Technology & Design, on page 92, as part of the regular “Back Page” series of interviews with top-level security directors and consultants.

In the last two years, two Atlantic City casinos had their hands slapped because CCTV monitoring staff were using the cameras inappropriately to zoom in on women. What kind of checks program do you recommend so that the surveillance director and casino security director ensure this doesn't happen?

I'd like to emphasize that that is a very rare occurrence. Out of the couple of thousand casinos that operate hours and hours every day, there's only been a couple in the country that have actually had issues in that regard.

Good, effective management should be common sense, but in any surveillance operation you still have to have a check and balance on your surveillance because they're the end of the chain. A lot of surveillance rooms even have a camera in the surveillance room to watch the surveillance agents who are watching the property. That's typically watched by a surveillance director and sometimes it's piped into the general manager's office, so that he has a little bit of oversight. And a good manager can go to the surveillance agents' station and spot check them to see what they've been watching and how they've been watching it.

There are circumstances where you're going to look at somebody's body. If a dealer puts chips into her cleavage, should you go into that area and look at it to see if you can see them? If you have an indication that you have a theft, I think it's appropriate. But it's not appropriate to look just because you have an interest, or you want to play games.

Is the background check still the most important part of a casino security program?

My opinion is the background check isn't the most important thing. I think the training is the most important function of security operations. Background checks are certainly important, but I believe the important part of the program has got to be how you train your personnel. Selection and hiring are one thing; once you get up to that point you still have to show them how to do their job, and they can't do their job without training. So I think that's the thing that has to be hammered into every security and surveillance operator's head every day.

What are the most successful staff training activities/techniques you've seen?

I find that the more visual the training program is, I find that the students tend to accept it faster. So in a surveillance operation you may have a board that shows what every surveillance agent's been trained on within the last 12 months, be it table games, craps dealing, sliding of dice, be it roulette cheat moves, back of the house, food and beverage-something that as you walk in the door to your work every day you can see the progress of every agent and they can see their own training. Those types of visuals can be very helpful in the overall program. And taking your training on a regular basis and absorbing it into your operation is the best way to get it going, because it's difficult to get budgeted amounts for independent training other than your normal shifts.

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