Casino Security

Oct. 27, 2008

THERE ARE AN estimated 1,000 casinos in the United States alone, from spectacular resorts in Las Vegas to an Indian gaming facility in Iowa and a riverboat on the Mississippi near New Orleans.
Thousands of people may pass through each casino every day. Millions of dollars may be on site at any given time and the activity may continue 24 hours a day. Casinos present a real challenge to the security dealer or system integrator.

Most casinos divide the security function. Security officers monitor events in restaurants, parking lots, hallways, entries and possibly a surrounding or adjacent hotel. Surveillance personnel monitor the gaming tables, slot machines and money-counting rooms.

But both functions count on cameras—thousands of them in a major casino—to monitor events in real time and provide recorded data for investigative purposes. All security installations have benefited from the casinos’ need for new and better video technologies. For example, the need to read the denomination of bills on a gaming table helped push real-time video to 30 frames per second to provide a higher level of data.

On the security side, cameras can help in many areas, including liability issues. It is not unheard of for a patron to stage a slip-and-fall after losing heavily at the tables or slots. Video from the incident may allow security officers to prove the wet area on the floor was the result of the patron’s intentionally spilled drink. Parking lot video may show that casino valets had nothing to do with damage to a patron’s car, and the list goes on.
Facial recognition software has also been moved forward by the casinos’ need to recognize regular slip-and-fall practitioners and card counters who often work in teams in order to give themselves an advantage over the house while playing blackjack.

The software reads every face entering the casino and compares it to a database, which grows daily, of potential problem patrons. Casinos typically share such information and network with one another.
Since they are vital to the safety and secure operation of the entire facility, the cameras must be kept up and running at all times. A gaming table is taken out of action every time a camera breaks down. Often gaming tables are moved to another location within the casino. Both cases require rapid action to meet patron’s needs and minimize lost revenue from having an inactive table.

Many dealers and system integrators help casinos minimize these problems by keeping a full-time staff member at the facility. The integrator’s representative can immediately review the situation and call in extra help if necessary. Also, critical video system equipment, such as cameras, switchers, monitors and cables are kept on site to minimize the time required to get replacement parts.

Casinos require specialized knowledge of video systems. The size and complexity of these systems may keep some smaller dealers out of the picture. But as more casinos open across the country—and not all of them sprawling Las Vegas-style facilities—there are opportunities for many. Spend time getting to know the needs of the business. It may be worth a gamble.

Glenn Heywood has 27 years of sales and managerial experience in the telecommunications and security industries. He is currently director of sales for MAC Systems, based in Canton, Mass. MAC Systems is also a member of SecurityNet, a 21-member international organization of leading system integrators providing a single source for electronic security needs.