Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s also the reason why the world’s leading covert agencies look to Las Vegas to see the latest surveillance, security, and monitoring systems in action.
Las Vegas is where money meets the motivated. Not everyone visiting town wants to gamble. Some have a system – others just like to cheat. For the security teams on the strip, it’s a battle of wills and a constantly evolving game of casino cat and mouse.
Here are five ways the casinos stay on top of the game.
1. The Human Hierarchy
Everyone remembers the classic scene from the film Casino where Sam Rothstein, played by Robert De Niro, describes the lay of the land.
‘In Vegas, everybody’s gotta watch everybody else. Since the players are looking to beat the casino, the dealers are watching the players. The box men are watching the dealers. The floor men are watching the box men. The pit bosses are watching the floor men. The shift bosses are watching the pit bosses. The casino manager is watching the shift bosses. I’m watching the casino manager. And the eye-in-the-sky is watching us all.’
It’s all true. The human system is still the first line of defense for any casino. Collusion between dealers and players is a common scam. A player will secretly palm a deck of perfectly ordered cards to the dealer. It’s up to the box men to spot this.
Of course, the biggest alarm bell sounds when a winning streak bucks the typical table odds. If a player starts to win a disproportionate amount of money, the casino’s security team will take more notice of what’s going on.
2. Eye in the Sky
A major Las Vegas casino like The Bellagio probably has more than 2,000 cameras operating at any time. The cameras feed into dozens of monitors where a handful of security experts watch what’s going on.
Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the gaming at the blackjack and roulette tables is of little note. It’s only when the action suddenly heats up that the cameras zoom in.
In the case of the palmed deck, a scam which helped the players rake in more than $250,000, the video footage was reviewed and scrutinized and the ‘palm’ was discovered. The cameras don’t miss anything.
If you suffer from paranoid tendencies, stop reading now. NORA (Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness) software is as controversial as it is effective. Developed by SRD (System Research and Development), the software was developed initially for casinos.
It basically alerts security if there are non-obvious links between people in the same casino. For example: if the player at the craps table once shared the same telephone number as the woman enjoying a game of slots in the casino, the software would create an alert.
The software probes data to find connections between people in the same casino. Maybe you attended the same university, shared a common address, or use the same bank. NORA can access this information.
Not surprisingly, this software is used by the US Homeland Security, the CIA, and (probably) lots of other secret services.
4. RFID chips
Most modern casinos use radio frequency identification chips these days. If stolen, the RFID chips can be immediately deactivated and rendered worthless. The casino can also track player behaviour by following the chips.
If you win more than a certain amount of money, a casino will want to track you. The chips can facilitate this. They also prevent fraud at the table by recording the total amount of chips in play.
5. Facial Recognition
Facial recognition protects the casino on several different levels. As well as helping to spot known cheats and criminals, the system can also spot problem gamblers. All casinos are obliged to prevent problem gambling.
At the end of the day, the security is there to make the games and casinos safe for everyone.