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

What are the new concerns in advantage gamblers? How many new "tactics" are you seeing a year?

Well, understand that an advantage gambler is different than a cheat. An advantage gambler is somebody who merely looks at the operation and takes advantage of a weak procedure or something that's not being done correctly down on the floor. If the dealer is showing their whole card from the opposite direction and they have a partner, that's an advantage player. If the dealer's not paying attention or there's something going on and the craps dealer isn't watching the dice closely, then an advantage player will play that game. Or a slot machine that is malfunctioning-they'll look for those on the floor and play those because it's paying out more than it should. From a cheating standpoint I think all the old cheating methods are what's new. So everybody's going to try to cheat whatever's out there.

There's "ticket in ticket out" technology-if you go to most casino environments now, if you win a jackpot you get a barcode ticket that spits out of the machine rather than the money. Now you take that ticket and you bring it to the cashier and they pay you money, because it's an encoded barcode and it's cancelled as soon as you bring it to cash it in. You can't get another jackpot off of that, so that limits the amount of cheating that you can get regarding jackpots and collusion with other employees. Those types of things are new in the industry, and it's too new to tell whether they're going to take advantage of that.

How do you stop advantage players then? Basic management techniques? Training?

Yes, and when you look at a typical casino now-you see the foreman and the box men or whoever is in the table games area-most of their time is tied up in tracking the particular customers: how much they're spending, what their spending patterns are, who they are, what time they arrived, what their average play is. Rather than supervising and managing the operation of the game, most of them are so much focused on what's coming into the game and what's going out, that they're really not focusing on what the dealer's doing or what the customer is necessarily doing.

What are your thoughts on RFID chips and reader tables? Is this going to become a widespread solution?

I think from a management perspective, RFID chips are very useful because it assists in what I was talking about before: the table management perspective. So you know the average bets because it's being tracked by the table, it's a smart table. So you're lessening the job of managing in and out funds for the management, and making them focus more on what the game's about and the procedures, whether a dealer's accurately dealing like they're supposed to. So I think it's going to continue, from a gaming management perspective. The hurdle the industry's going to have to get over is the customer's perception of Big Brother-it's invading my privacy. Why do they need to know if I have 10 $500 chips in my pocket or whether I have one, and where are they tracking you? Are they going all the way up to my room, or are they not? So there has to be a certain amount of controls, and the public has to understand it's a management tool; it's not necessarily made to track exactly where you walk with your chips. The drawback is public acceptance, and that's a big "if" in the industry.

What can they do to improve the perception of these technologies?