Surveillance Department’s Involvement with Skilled Players

October 4th, 2010  |  Published in Security

Once a policy has been implemented by upper management, the handling of skilled players is much clearer and the roles of different departments become evident. At this point, a great deal of teamwork is needed to ensure this policy is successfully implemented by the staff.

In the instance that management decides to bar skilled players from the blackjack or in a specific way, casino surveillance must be involved. Their role in this procedure is broken down into the following sections:

  • Detection of skilled players
  • Verification they are practicing the skills against policy
  • Documenting the facts
  • Handling the players
  • Enforcing a preventative policy

The detection of potentially skilled players is usually done in teams with collaboration between surveillance and pit management. Pit managers give surveillance various reports regarding a range of bets being placed, strange hitting strategies, unusual wins or those that consistently win. Many of these aspects are also observed by surveillance.

It is quite obvious when two or three pit bosses and other managers are hovering over the same table or around a specific person. This is known in the industry as, “sweating the money.” Although they may have a good idea of what the skilled player is doing, it makes the regular players feel uncomfortable.

The verification of a player or group is left up to surveillance as they can constantly watch without interruption. They are primarily looking for strategies involving money management and betting patterns that are consistent with card-counting policies. However, only a small few are able to have enough discipline to maintain an advantage over a casino.

Documenting these facts is the responsibility of both pit management and casino surveillance. This provides a record of these skilled players and the actions they are taking. Once the player is documented, the handling procedures must be consistent with the casino policy set by upper management or else a huge liability can ensue.

Finally, there are a few things that can be completed to prevent these skilled players from taking money from the house. The most important action is to create preventative procedures and training for dealers and supervisors. These procedures make it unprofitable and risk for card counters to attempt this skill.

There are new methods of cheating that arise constantly. The utilization of technology plays a major role. As a result, casino policy is also constantly changing to keep current with the new methods.

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Understanding Casino Confidentiality

August 31st, 2010  |  Published in Security

Confidentiality is found in all businesses within all industries. It is extremely important to keep company secrets within the organization. The casino industry is no exception, especially in the surveillance room where this is one of the most important principles to follow.

There are four areas where confidentiality is completely necessary. These include:

  • Information about personnel
  • Information about patrons
  • Intelligence information regarding operations and investigations
  • Surveillance room operations and personnel

Information regarding casino personnel must be kept in a secure area that houses the server. This includes top-of-the-line network security to fight off hackers and invaders. Personnel information usually consists of address, phone number, background check information, banking information (for direct deposit) and other vital aspects of individual’s livelihood.

This is also consistent with information regarding patrons. Credit card numbers, banking information, addresses and phone numbers are all stored for guests of the hotel and casino. This type of information must be secured and kept confidential to any outsiders as well as many employees of the establishment.

Information is brought to the surveillance room in many ways, but the most prominent method is video camera as it sees and records everything. Other methods include, inside and outside sources, executive personnel, security officers, radio, formal and informal reports, staff interviews and customer complaints. This is all information that must stay under wraps, especially during operations or an investigation.

When security and/or surveillance are conducting an investigation, they must keep all details hidden from the public. This is extremely important as any leaks could tip off a potential perpetrator allowing them to compromise the investigation, the game they are playing, employees and patrons. Law enforcement personnel are told the information required who also follow confidentiality until the correct time.

Finally, information regarding surveillance room operations and the personnel involved is a big no-no. This ties in to keeping the information confidential regarding investigations and employees. Anything that goes on in the surveillance room about any action or employee must remain in the surveillance room. Your supervisor or the director will decide who needs to know what information.

Like all businesses, casinos (and more specifically the surveillance room) have strict confidentiality agreements with their employees due to the criminal activity that may occur in a casino. Signing that agreement means you are upholding the company’s policies and can be terminated if broken. When the time is right, your superior will release the proper information to the correct people.

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Security Factors – Dealing with Equipment Malfunctions

August 19th, 2010  |  Published in Security

Equipment malfunctions occur in every type of operation imaginable. Having procedures in place to deal with these failures is the key to success. In casino surveillance rooms, there are many equipment issues that may arise. These include:

  • Switchers (computer or keyboard)
  • Cameras and recorders
  • Power issues
  • Monitors
  • Dedicated cameras

If this occurs, surveillance operators need to immediately contact their supervisor. The supervisor will generally contact maintenance personnel. This is especially important for cameras and recording devices. If customers discover they weren’t being watched by the eye in the sky, chaos would ensue.

Games that offer progressive jackpots (like Caribbean Stud Poker) must have camera coverage at all times. If the camera dies or becomes unavailable in these areas, the Casino Manager needs to be notified of this issue immediately. This procedure is also applicable to pit areas for games like Baccarat, Mini-Baccarat, Roulette and High-roller Blackjack. These areas must also have constant camera coverage.

These departments will always ask whether the affected games be shut down. You must reply by informing them that these areas have no camera coverage until repairs are made and that this is a major violation of gaming regulations. Without cameras present, there’s no way to verify a win. The surveillance operator does not make the final decision to temporarily end any games; it’s more of a suggestion.

Managers of other departments should be familiar with gaming regulations so it is their job to assess the severity of the situation and make the decision as to whether the game should or should not be shut down.

If an isolated camera fails but can be covered with other equipment, an entry into the DSR should be made. In the entry, its common practice to describe the issue and any corrective actions. This is usually a requirement so the supervisor can add specific entries to the Maintenance Log. Again, notify the current supervisor immediately and the supervisor that’s covering the next shift.

The current supervisor will create a work order, inform the director and enter the camera issue into the Repair Log as well as the Maintenance Log. Of course if any questions arise, feel free to ask the supervisor or director for further clarification.

When surveillance equipment fails, if diligent, decisive action does not occur immediately, not only could the casino lose a significant amount of money but it could be in major violation of gaming control laws due to un-verifiable wins. It’s best to thoroughly know the procedures in case of an emergency.

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The Writing Portion of Casino Surveillance

August 10th, 2010  |  Published in Security

An important motto in any industry is, “if it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist.” This is especially true in the casino surveillance business. It’s often much quicker for an individual to get into trouble through verbal communication as it can be misread as intent. At least in a formal, written document individuals are protected by fact and not hearsay.

The Advantages of a Written Report

This is the reason reports are communicated through written means and not verbally in which information can easily change as it’s passed from one person to the next. On the other hand, written reports are reviewed, scrutinized and clarified prior to reaching the proper channels. Errors can be caught and explained while missing data can be completed.

Writing isn’t limited to paper, it also includes video surveillance. Within the Surveillance room, written reports are always substantiated with video backup.  All reports utilize raw data (tape) and are forwarded with the reports. Without it written reports are almost worthless.

Writing Suggestions, Improvements and Grievances

With large organizations like casinos, there are many suggestions for improvements as well as grievances. Unfortunately these are rarely put into writing and distributed through the appropriate channels to the proper levels of change. Usually suggestions, improvements and grievances are verbally stated which brings the idea to a screeching halt. This is commonplace in all industries.

In most cases the authority figure informed on these ideas isn’t likely to remember everything that’s stated due to the demands of their day-to-day functions. As a result that verbal communication is lost. It’s of best practice to document any suggestions, ideas for improvement or grievances for these to be heard and implemented.

Exclusions of the Rule

In the Surveillance room there are some reports that must be verbally communicated but are always backed up with a written report. One example occurs when a guest is suspected of cheating, like card counting in Blackjack. A phone call is immediately placed to the Pit Manager with an entry to the daily log.

If the suspicions are true, the Director of Surveillance and Shift Manager will receive a phone call and a detailed written incident report with numbers and times logged will be created to corroborate the claim.

Verbal communications in any situation are open to speculation, subjective interpretations and error which can endanger jobs or create liabilities within the casino. To combat these potential miscommunications, documenting every event and important conversation will benefit you personally, the department and the casino as a whole.

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An Introduction to Casino Surveillance Reporting

July 30th, 2010  |  Published in Security

Written reports are especially important in the surveillance industry. They inform the next shift of any issues that occurred, specific guests to observe and most importantly notifies upper management of the various happenings that occur from around the casino. Many casino surveillance operators are critical of the dealers, pit managers and pit bosses for letting laziness and sloppy work performance slide.

Upper management personnel that usually reviews surveillance reporting includes:

  • Pit supervisors
  • Shift managers
  • Casino managers

These individuals are often so busy they need a solid summary of the different events which have occurred on the casino floor. Other than personal observation, they aren’t aware of many issues that may be occurring. Their job is to staff, coordinate and supervise specific employees and locations not watch the dealers.

Issues arise when lower-level employees feel as if they’re not being watched so they become lazier and engage in sloppier work. If they aren’t in fact being watched or there are no repercussions, they’ll continue to get away with it. Unfortunately lazy thinking can often transform to criminal activity. The thought process is if nobody is watching, then why not take a few dollars here and there.

Although surveillance is the last line of defense for a casino, they must watch personnel in addition to guests. This is why reporting is such an important function. It directly exposes employee laziness, sloppiness and criminal activity to upper management.

Within the casino surveillance room many operators think that if everyone is engaging in this activity, why single one employee out. Nothing will ever change if these reports aren’t written. The reason everyone is acting in this manner is due to poor supervision and no consequences. Reporting will change that by notifying management of these issues.

A single report will not result in trouble for the employee in question. However, multiple unreported errors will result in the employee being dismissed. Consequently reporting may straighten that employee up and allow them to excel at their job. Surveillance reports are used to fine-tune the department, not as a cause for disciplinary action.

In the end most employees will get caught being lazy, sloppy or performing criminal acts. Reporting will expedite this and act as a deterrent if employees know they’re being watched. Producing thorough reports will result in a betterment of all employees and the business as a whole.

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How to Improve Surveillance in a Casino

July 13th, 2010  |  Published in Security

Although casinos are all about fun, games and entertainment, high-tech surveillance systems and well-trained operators are always around, always watching. After all gaming is a business with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets. Therefore vigilance needs to be enforced and preparation in place.

To continue to enforce and prepare, casinos must be up-to-date on training methods and most importantly innovative security equipment. Therefore to improve surveillance in a casino the following must occur:

  • Improve training
  • Improve the equipment

These two broad segments are the most important areas to improve. There are thousands of courses available, especially in casino areas like Las Vegas or Atlantic City, at local colleges and security schools on everything from dealing at a casino to surveillance management. By taking these courses, the casino will be better prepared for any wrongdoing. Security personnel will learn modern cheating methods and scams.

Similarly there are casino security seminars and trade-shows that display the latest techniques and systems. Sending the security manager to these events will greatly improve surveillance. This information will trickle-down to lower level employees through training sessions.

The second area to help improve surveillance is by the equipment. There are all types of surveillance systems available. Some casinos have top of the line equipment that monitors heart rate, pupil dilation and other factors to verify if a visitor has truly won a game. Currently most casinos use analogue surveillance systems to monitor the gaming floor. Unfortunately the images from the cameras are of poor quality which may be vital in a pending legal case.

Therefore upgrading to a digital system that can be recorded on a DVR maintains the quality and allows for easy storage. IP-based surveillance systems also work in high definition catching the most subtle moves. The newer systems are much easier to set-up or move around if needed.

Casinos may get by with their current training and analogue systems. However as thieves and scam artists find new methods of cheating, updated training and surveillance equipment is going to play a vital role in prevention. Constantly being up-to-date with security education and observation systems will make any transition much easier.

Most casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City do maintain proper training and equipment. However, many Native American-run casinos and isolated establishments do not have this degree of security. As the need for security increases, this should be implemented in a timely fashion to ensure safe gaming.

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Casino Surveillance Concept Checklist during the Shift

June 30th, 2010  |  Published in Security

After the pre-shift check there are many responsibilities during the shift that encompasses being a casino surveillance operator. Since operators are the eyes and ears of the casino floor, they must be alert and on guard for any potential mishaps.

There are ten primary concepts to remember during the shift of a surveillance operator including:

  • Ensure recording mediums are working
  • Log all calls
  • Cooperate with other casino departments
  • Note situations that must be carried to the next shift
  • Routine traffic is handled by the investigator
  • Reports are handled by the supervisor
  • Major situations are handled by the supervisor
  • Floor surveillance is done by the supervisor
  • Close watch operations are handled by the supervisor
  • Investigators observe all areas

First, it’s important to ensure all cameras are recording at least once every hour. In the case of an incident, this can be used as evidence in court. Also it’s vital to log all calls into an out of the surveillance room. This includes all personal calls upon incoming. Additionally, cooperation between departments helps to expedite tasks much quicker. Surveillance operators generally have contact with the casino shift manager, security supervisors and the slot and cage departments.

Any situations that have occurred during the current shift should be noted and passed along to the next shift. These include equipment failures, collusion, changes in the casino, continued situations or special surveillance.

There are specific actions that are handled by the supervisor and investigator only. First, routine traffic is handled by the investigator with the supervisor assisting when needed. The investigator makes the final decision on any issues that arise in the surveillance room. Reports such as procedure violations and incident reports are always handled by the supervisor.

Any major situations that arise in any area of the casino are handled by the supervisor. This includes collusion, theft, collaborating with security or outside agencies, or any other traffic outside of the normal requests. The supervisor also handles any floor surveillance. When on break they take a communication device in case an issue arises.

Close watch operations are also conducted by the supervisor. The investigator handles all traffic while the supervisor is pursuing close watch operations. Finally, investigators observe all areas when not handling calls and other type of daily work. These areas include cages, count rooms, pits, slots, etc.

Surveillance of a whole casino takes many different sets of eyes. Investigators and supervisors handle the major problems and reporting. The surveillance department is such a vital aspect to the casino organization to ensure all operations are running smoothly on the casino

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Basic Characteristics of a Level One Casino Surveillance Operator

June 25th, 2010  |  Published in Security

One of the most important departments within normal casino operations is security. Without the manpower, cameras and constant monitoring, casinos would not be able to function properly. Since gambling inherently draws a few bad seeds, security weeds those individuals out so other consumers can enjoy all the excitement without being swindled.

Different casino’s have different security needs. Small casinos require much less security and equipment than larger Las Vegas operations. Since the gaming market has become such a large and profitable industry, many complementing businesses have emerged. For instance, the need for surveillance employees is at an all time high. Consequently, many businesses have formed to provide this type of training.

In surveillance school, level one candidates learn numerous aspects of the casino to ensure effectiveness. These characteristics include:

  • Knowing the casino layout
  • Following emergency drills
  • Operating a surveillance system
  • Generating daily surveillance reports
  • Forbidden activities
  • Identifying locations from camera numbers

One of the most important pieces of information is to know the layout of the casino in detail on foot. If any issues arise, the operator will know the exact location. Next, it’s important for operators to follow emergency drills. This includes knowing where to go, what is expected of the operator, who will be notified and what must be done.

The candidate also learns how to operate the casino surveillance system. This also includes all surveillance room equipment such as phones and recorders. Another area covered in basic surveillance training is the fundamental requirements for generating a daily surveillance report. These are usually required within the security department.

Additionally, level one operators learn all forbidden surveillance activities. This includes departmental, corporate, legal and court-mandated activities. Finally, operators learn how to identify various locations around the casino by camera number and display from the monitor. This also includes the names of the areas on the casino floor, all locations where a camera is present and the best method for returning a camera to a parked position.

Casino operators are the “eye in the sky” that allow for gaming properties to run smoothly, effectively and within the limits of the law. They also ensure customer safety which, in the end, leads to satisfied gamers and an increase in retention rate. As technology improves, these aspects will become more effective and efficient which will ultimately lead to higher customer loyalty.

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