George Clooney’s 2007 movie Ocean’s Thirteen features a cool and imaginary computer system: the Greco Player Tracker. The system allegedly uses machine learning technology and advanced video image processing. Any casino protected by the Greco is supposedly impregnable. How can a group of con artists and thieves resist that challenge?

As much fun as the Ocean’s movies were, they played up stereotyped images about con artists, gamblers, casinos, and security. Yet Ocean’s Thirteen was almost prophetic. Whereas there is no single system today that works like the Greco, casinos can do all that stuff now. As a visitor to a modern casino you want to feel safe. Modern casino security systems succeed in making people feel safe. Even though a few criminals occasionally leave with more than they should, casino security is hard to beat.

4  factors contribute to the success of today’s casino security.

  • The people behind the systems
  • RFID technology
  • Advanced optics technology
  • Sophisticated computer software

Casino security staff are trained to use the latest technology. That technology is provided by independent companies that hire exceptional engineers. Those engineers integrate technology used by many industries. In other words, casino security systems work so well – emulating the goals of the Greco Player Tracker – by drawing upon real world technology from many fields. You may be surprised to learn just how much a modern casino can “see” through electronic surveillance and analysis.

And what about your privacy? That’s important, too. Resort security systems are designed to protect your privacy while protecting you from your fellow visitors. Players have known for years that casinos track their chips using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. Many businesses use RFID technology now, including credit card companies. But recent advances in security systems deploy RFID tech across many more devices.

One of the best features of the fictional Greco Player Tracker is that the casino used cameras to zoom in on player faces and analyze their emotions. Although that level of analysis is not yet available, optics systems now provide several cool yet creepy real time analytics functions.

Of course, to make all this possible, the casinos rely on the latest computer software. The software collects data, analyzes it for meaningful patterns, and learns from what it finds. The advanced analytics functions of casino software support both basic accounting needs and sophisticated security.

1- Modern Security Systems Use Machine Learning

Machine learning sounds mysterious and mathematical. It’s esoteric future science stuff. In realty, as exciting as the field of machine learning has become, it’s been used for over 50 years. Machine learning algorithms identify patterns in large sets of data. They use these patterns to find solutions to specific problems. Machine learning is not yet capable of what scientists call “human cognition”.

So what does casino security software use machine learning to achieve? First, casinos and their partners collect large volumes of data. This data is being mined for new ideas to improve accounting and security. Second, machine learning algorithms are required for advanced optical analysis. The software that makes facial recognition technology possible is enhanced through machine learning. The algorithms identify the best cues that software should use from images to identify people.

Every time you walk into a modern resort or casino your image is captured. The captured image is analyzed and then discarded. Every time you play a game in a casino your choices are recorded and analyzed. How much you wager and win is included in the casinos’ financial reports. Yet security software also scrutinizes your playing patterns, comparing them to “known” player patterns.

2- Casinos May Record and Analyze Game Play

You may already know that all the slot games in modern casinos are networked together. These networks record every transaction. Casinos lease these slot management systems from independent developers.

Slot game manufactures now use algorithms to analyze the patterns of real player behavior. This analysis helps them improve their game designs, making games more appealing. Slot game analysis also helps identify would-be cheaters. As popular as slot games are, casinos are still famous for their table games. And this is where security has really improved over the past few years. Casinos now have the ability to track table game play with similar data.

A company named ARB Labs sells a “Live Bet Recogition” system that they boast “detects each round of play, the value of every player’s bet, and the end of each round.” This system utilizes casino security cameras and recognizes how bets are made in blackjack, craps, roulette, and other non-slot games.

The ARB system records table game play data the way other software records slot game play. Casinos use this data for basic accounting reports and to analyze player behavior. ARB and competitors’ advances in game play monitoring and analysis raise the bar for players who want to cheat.

3- Casinos May Electronically Identify Visitor Age and Gender

Canon sells a software system named Profile Analyzer to resorts and casinos that uses images captured by security cameras. Although Canon sells their own sophisticated security cameras, the system accepts images from other cameras. Canon’s software recognizes people by location and time, estimating their age and gender.

Although privacy advocates may raise concerns about these systems, Canon says the image data is quickly discarded. Still, Canon customers can use the data to both design marketing strategies and enhance surveillance. How would a resort use this data for marketing? Resorts may use this data to decide where to place signs, event placards, and message marquees. The data could also be used to determine which promotional messages work best. Knowing how many people of a certain age and gender pass through an area may provide other advantages.

Here’s an example:

If a lot of children enter a specific section during the afternoon, security could discretely place more personnel in the area. Marketing specialists may adjust electronic marquee messages for different groups of visitors.

When you think about it, this kind of profile analysis is similar to how online advertisers use data. They estimate where you live, your age and income, gender and marital status, and other demographic data. This data is used to advertising networks to decide which ads to show you on Websites.

4- Casinos May Use Advanced Video Scanning Technology

Imagine you’re on a casino security team. Imagine something just happened in the casino and you need to identify a patron. Imagine you have to visually follow that patron’s movement through the casino for an hour.

If a casino manages 100 security cameras, your team would have to review 800 hours of footage just to scan the security feeds for a single shift. Now think of police agency that must review surveillance footage from dozens of businesses when investigating a crime. They may have to review several days’ worth of video data.

Thanks to video scanning software from companies like Cognitec, recorded video investigation is practical. These hi-tech applications only need 1 or 2 images and they can begin scanning thousands of hours of video footage. Once they identify a subject it’s easy for these applications to virtually follow people around.

While this technology may alarm privacy advocates, it’s clearly beneficial to society as a whole. And who can blame casinos for wanting to use it? If you are robbed in a casino, there’s a chance they caught the crime on their surveillance video. But having the video footage of a crime in progress does no good if the key event isn’t found. So while you might be tempted to play fast and loose with the cards, don’t. Modern casino security has the tools to find that one moment someone slips a card onto the table.

5- RFID Systems Allow Casinos To Track Thousands of Items

If you have ever entered a gated community in a vehicle that has a distinctive window sticker with a barcode, congratulations! You’ve seen RFID technology in action. Industry and government have relied on Radio Frequency Identification for decades. Yet, only in the last 10-15 years have RFID tags really become popular. The RFID tag industry churns out millions of these devices every year. RFID technology really took off with warehouse managers.

Morse Watchmans developed RFID technology for managing large inventories of keys. They now apply that technology to virtually any class of objects via their AssetWatcher system. Morse Watchmans markets AssetWatcher to casinos among other customers. AssetWatcher doesn’t just track RFID signals, it compiles a history of asset movement and emails notifications to security teams.

A single AssetWatcher system can manage up to 10,000 items including card shufflers, chip drawers, chairs, tables, slot machines, coin boxes, and more. If you can slap an adhesive label on it, virtually any item can be tracked by a comparable system. Some casinos now use RFID-capable chips. But there’s another way they can monitor the use of their chips.

6- Chip Trays Count Chips during Game Play

Do you wonder what prevents the croupiers and cashiers from stealing chips? Obviously most of them are honest people who just want to do their jobs. But the casinos watch their staff closely. Even so, human surveillance is not enough. Someone who is determined to steal a chip, whether a casino employee or patron, will eventually find a way to do so.

Now a company called Smart Chip Tray provides a system for managing casino chips via RFID technology. The trays count the chips as they are stored and removed in real time. The system notifies casino staff if there is unusual activity in the chip tray. A casino can track each individual table’s action, measuring profitability. Cashiers can be notified when a table needs more chips. And pit bosses can be notified when losses pile up quickly, possibly indicating cheating.

Although a smart chip tray system is more directly integrated into the casino’s accounting system, the security benefit is touted by the company. As casinos deploy this kind of technology they’ll accrue real time data about their cash flow. Benefits to players include less time waiting for staff to count chips, change out chips, and investigate innocent but suspicious looking game play. A pit boss is less likely to be concerned about a table moving chips in and out according to normal expectations.

7- Card Shuffling Machines Scan Cards during Use

You may not yet be playing against it, but land-based casinos are excited about a product called Shark Trap. Instead of trapping real sharks, these card shuffling devices take casino card deck management to the next level. The machines scan the cards continuously to detect new flaws from normal wear and tear to cheating.

Most players and dealers are honest people, but the industry expects more than anti-cheating benefits from hi-tech shufflers like Shark Trap. Casinos expect to reduce costs associated with card management and delays in table games. Pit bosses will have better information about what is happening to the cards as they are played.

If you have a habit of rubbing the cards you may soon have to stop. These card-sensitive technologies will flag cards that appear to have been tampered with. Just knowing they have smart shufflers on the table should reassure pit bosses. The shufflers are supposed to detect attempts to manipulate the cards in any way. Players will have to practice their old fashioned card counting skills to stay on their game in blackjack.

The fictional Greco system may never be built in real life but casinos are catching up to fantasy with real technology. Players should welcome some of these security features. Whatever saves the casinos time in managing their staff and assets improves your experience.

The growing use of computer technology to monitor and analyze player activity does raise some privacy concerns. As a casino patron you should already know they are watching you. By visiting the casino you give tacit permission for them to record your activity. On the other hand, any technology that makes it hard to cheat a casino makes life better for most players. You may not want the casino to win, but you don’t want other people to win by cheating.

The days when cheaters only had to outsmart dealers and pit bosses are ending. Now the computer networks are watching us play. Computer-supervised surveillance adds a degree of privacy to the gaming experience, if only because the machines don’t care about your personal habits.


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