The Changing Focus of the Casino Surveillance Team

Finding ways to reduce loss in all departments

Old time surveillance directors will tell you that when we started it was all about table games. In those days, they really were the only game in town as far as the casino was concerned. The casino shift manager was “god,” and the floor people and dealers were like the rich kids at school. They only hung out with each other, made all the money, and drove the best cars. They even had their own breakrooms and food!

Of course, the reason that we watched them exclusively was due directly to the money they made (this was in the eighties). The pit, by far, made the most money in the casino. Additionally, the games were vulnerable to cheating and card counters and there were a host of them (much more than there are today) to deal with. Surveillance had to be there all of the time.

Slowly that picture changed. Slots began to take more and more of the gambler’s dollar, and took a bigger seat at the executive table. As advantage players and cheaters got bolder and cost us more money, we tightened up our game protection: no more single decks, instead multiple decks were added to give us the edge we needed, and players were prohibited from even touching the cards. Losses to bad guys were reduced but the biggest factor that changed our focus was that slots continued to grow in popularity and table games did not.

Scams and Thefts Happen in All Departments

It took a number of years, but surveillance rooms began to shift their focus to slots and other areas. Of course, the casinos where the big money was played remained in table games, and some do to this day. However, as we will discuss later in this article, the revenue streams in even the largest casinos aren’t always from table games.

Observing other areas taught us that there were scams and thefts in all departments. Certainly in slots at that time, with mechanical machines that could be manipulated and false jackpots easily set up. There were also slugs that were routinely accepted, not to mention slot buckets and purses that were frequently stolen. Those were the good old days! Lots of crime and busts for the surveillance department. Not so much of that happens now but we still have stolen TITOs, phones and purses, and of course false jackpots and other large scams and schemes. Just as bad if not worse.

Players clubs also became a major player for the casino. These clubs manage and dispense millions of dollars at even the smallest of properties and are extremely vulnerable to the internal theft and fraud. Abandon observation of your club at your own peril. They all get ripped off for sizable losses. Add them to your operational focus.

Of course, as we progressed with better camera and recording options, employee theft drove us to place cameras everywhere in the hotel-casino. As we did so, we became increasingly involved in all sorts of new things from slip and falls, coverage of parking lots and garages, and employee performance monitoring and observation of ticket sales. Indeed, at this point, many of us had to give some of our duties to security such as monitoring the parking lot and back of the house because it was just too much for the average surveillance room.

More Changes With Addition of More Amenities

With the addition of nightclubs and day pools, we got to where we are today. We really watch everything, or we should. To table games and slots, we’ve added retail points of sale. Most all surveillance departments now deploy real time point of sale systems. Retail includes food and beverage venues, hotel, gift shops, and entertainment venues to include the notorious night clubs and day pools we see in Las Vegas, and other larger Tribal casinos and jurisdictions. Believe it or not, the revenue streams from hotel, food and beverage, and entertainment venues now often surpass that of the casino; sometimes just the nightclub on a property can make more than anything else. What are you doing to protect these areas from harm or loss, liability or regulatory fines?  Anyone of these issues can cost your property tremendous amounts of money.

All of the areas mentioned require surveillance engagement and support. In fact, I don’t know of an area or department on a casino resort property that doesn’t. You will be there at one time or another. In other words, you can be the hero, or the dog that gets kicked, depending on your surveillance program of operation.

I think the important thing about the focus of a surveillance department is that it has changed, and we need to change with it. We are responsible for so much more now, and if we want to be part of a successful property, we have to perform our jobs better than ever.

In today’s world, it’s not just about blackjack or slots. It’s about everything the property is doing to make a profit. It’s our role to do our best to ensure profitability by finding and eliminating or reducing loss to the best of our ability. We need to go wherever needed to make that happen.

That is our focus.

Jennifer Boss 19 Articles