TG&H Interview: Exploring The Risk to Casino Surveillance Operators Today

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The dinosaurs didn’t know that they were going to go extinct. That is an important fact to realize. They could, doubtless, see the glowing “star” in the sky, growing larger with each passing night until it wasn’t only visible in the dark, but in the daylight as well. But, we have to assume, that they didn’t understand what it was they were seeing, which was a small mercy at least.

The meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs was a natural event, of course. But by the time its outlines could be discerned the outcome was inevitable.

In my opinion, a similar, if nowhere near as grisly, outcome is going to affect “traditional” Casino Surveillance operations over the course of this decade; at the outside.

The outlines of the “extinction level event” are already discernible, and arguably have been for a while. But, fortunately for all concerned, the effects can not only be mitigated against, but can be positively embraced to lead to better outcomes and a more flourishing “ecosystem” than that which already exists.

So, what is this “extinction event” and who, or what, are the dinosaurs who are going to be so badly affected by it?

It is easier to describe the dinosaurs first, and then move on to what will, inevitably, make them extinct. The dinosaurs are Casino Surveillance operations that insist that they will continue to do things “in the same old way” and for the “same old reasons.” I understand why people would want to do that. There is a comfort in repeating what has, if not necessarily been effective in the past, has at least been consistent. And, for most people, consistency is a source of security.

Surveillance operations have, traditionally, focused upon the protection of Table Games, almost to the exclusion of any other considerations.urveillance staff have been taught “Game Protection” by learning the rules of the game and then learning how the game in question might have cheating, or advantage play, actions prosecuted against it. This is good, so far as it goes.

Some of the more thoughtful operations have also looked at the data associated with the Table game in question and have considered whether it is an outlier from a performance standpoint. Does the House Advantage hold for the game? Does it operate in the way that it might be expected to? If it is losing money, even on an irregular basis, is there some sort of a pattern to these losses that can be uncovered? Is the same person(s) winning regularly? Is the same staff member on the table a predominant number of times when the game loses?

While I might still call operations considering all these options as being “dinosaurs” I will acknowledge that they are of the more evolved sort.

How many operations are considering other elements of their business to the degree that perhaps they should be, given their intrinsic, actual, importance — whether that importance is financial contribution to the bottom line, or whether it is vulnerability to regulatory scrutiny?

Ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Are Surveillance operations paying sufficient attention to the contributions of, and vulnerability to, bars and restaurants within the property to losses from fraud and theft?
  2. Are Surveillance operations paying enough attention to the Slots and EGM estate? Especially the EGM element, which can have vulnerabilities that the Slots department itself is unaware of.
  3. Do the Surveillance department have a say in marketing promotions? Are marketing promotions considered from the standpoint of are they vulnerable, or not, to fraud, or exploitation?
  4. Do the Surveillance departments have access to all of the data that they might need to make informed and timely decisions, and do they have access to technological tools that help them streamline the decision-making process and to allocate, always scarce, resources as efficiently as possible?
  5. With Compliance with various Federal and State regulations becoming increasingly important, vital even, for the overall wellbeing of the Casino operation in what way are Surveillance aiding in this important metric of protecting the operation from threats?

The dinosaurs, content to repeat the actions of their antecedents, may not have the answers to these questions. But, if they do not have them and do not provide them then, like the dinosaurs that made up the analogy at the beginning of this piece, they are doomed.

Surveillance departments have a real opportunity to leverage their strengths and existing skillsets and to really embrace technologies that will allow them to really contribute to the overall success of their parent operations.

The increasing use of AI to predict and detect regulatory compliance issues, such as attempts to breach AML or Terrorist Financing regulations, can pay real dividends when it comes to avoiding the increasing numbers of fines being levied.

AI based computer vision and pattern recognition will, increasingly, enable operations to “see” things that were previously obscured. Whether this is the unique faces of individuals who can then be assigned value, where appropriate, or “flagged” for some form of intervention, or action. Or the value of wagers and true, up-to-the-minute operational intelligence. Or the detection of faint, longer term, operational trends that will allow efficient resource allocation.

Surveillance, as an existing hub for the Casino camera systems (upon which all Computer Vision initiatives rely) and having the potential to be a data-hub too, can evolve beyond their past limitations and expand their importance and influence. Because the simple truth is that the technology is coming and the “victor,” meaning departmental survival, will go to those forward thinking enough to embrace it.

Like the asteroid, 65 million years ago, the outlines of this technological change are increasingly clear. But the outcomes need not be so devastating. Indeed, could be both exciting and empowering. If only the promise of technology and change is welcomed and the necessary adaptions to thrive in the new environment are made.