Casino Security Innovations

The popular casino-robbery movie Ocean's 11 notwithstanding, security at Vegas casinos is the toughest in the world. Since the earliest days of casino entertainment, the casinos have been on their toes in their efforts to keep their players’ funds safe and their own cash guarded. The brick-and-mortar casinos acknowledge that, in order to keep worried players from moving to the online casino, they have to be on top of the latest security innovations in order to make their patrons feel protected and secure in their gambling endeavors.

Artificial intelligence, DNA sequencing and other 21st century technological wonders are now on the front line of the Vegas casinos’ security apparatus. Some of the newest innovations include:

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition technology is now coming to the Las Vegas strip casinos. The technology, which many people know from passports and other national ID innovations, is slowly becoming standard operating procedure for visitors who want to enter the Vegas casinos.

One of the first casinos to use facial recognition technology has not yet identified itself but facial recognition experts are enthusiastic about the potential that the technology offers to help casinos track visitors and secure monies.  

Alec Massey, PwC Connected Solutions director, discussed the upcoming practice during the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. “These technologies like facial recognition are being deployed today,” said Massey. “The actual wave is happening now.”The PwC Connected Solutions unit works with businesses to deploy network analytics, sensors and dashboards that can deliver data intelligence. This includes facial recognition which is one of the solutions they offer companies.

While no one knows which casino is using facial recognition, there are many who are taking educated guesses. Massey said “Forward-thinking suppliers are integrating biometrics into their casino products, greatly increasing the available data on table play. Several companies are doing this now.” In casinos, he told visitors to his Expo booth, table game manufacturers are already using facial recognition to help casinos collect data.

To date multiple biometric solutions providers have demonstrated their facial recognition software at several Las Vegas conventions this year  including World Game Protection Expo and CES.

People in the casino industry have been talking about facial recognition technology for years but it’s only recently that the dream has become a reality. Strip casinos  have been testing facial recognition over the past few years. Inconsistent results almost caused them to give up but developers have improved the technology and it is now viable.

Massey discussed the advances while moderating a panel discussion on how technology will change resorts. He said that facial recognition technology enables security to capture a person’s face on video and then identify those who they don’t want to enter the casino -- criminals, card-counters, etc. They do this by matching facial features with an existing database of photographs. 

According to Massey, hotel and resort operators may use facial recognition or vein pattern recognition -- also known as biometrics -- in the future as part of multi-factor authentication. That could stop unauthorized people from gaining access to restricted areas. The need for a system to deal with this issue became apparent after a Las Vegas man recently posed as a delivery driver which allowed him access to back rooms and restricted areas. He was able to rob several casinos by entering their back-of-house areas. He is now under arrest.

Internet of Things

Massey discussed the Internet of Things -- devices that hospitality companies can employ to improve security and make the business more efficient. These include internet-connected temperature monitors and call buttons but they also function as door sensors, opportunities for guests to use their phone as a key, etc. There’s a surge in implementation, fueled by a decline in the cost of these devices and the ease in connecting them to the internet. Door sensors, for instance, can be connected for as little as $1 a month.

Anti-Gun Technology

Following the Mandalay Bay massacre that occurred last October, casinos are actively searching for ways to ensure that guests don’t bring guns into the casinos, onto the gaming floor, into the hotels or any other area.

The casinos located along the famous Vegas Strip are all shaped in a “Y” formation.  Visitors are funneled past slot machines and card tables on their way to other destinations. Whatever other eateries, shops, entertainment or activities exist, the casino floor is the raison d’etre of the resorts.  That’s how Vegas resorts used to make most of their money and the “Y” facilitated that perfectly.

Now the casinos are rethinking the “Y” design. For one thing, gambling isn't the moneymaker it used to be --revenues from the hotels, shopping, bars and restaurants now outstrip the money that gaming brings in.

In addition, security experts recognize that Y-shaped buildings pose a security challenge. Westgate Casino’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip explains that "The bulk of your guests are in this highly concentrated area, just lingering. Ensuring their safety requires more massive numbers of guards and cameras.

Westgate was the first casino to develop the “Y” design and now it’s innovating again with new surveillance tactics. Westgate has begun to test a discreet weapon-sensing device called the Patscan Cognitive Microwave Radar.

PCMR is marketed by the Canadian security outfit PatriotOne. It combines machine learning algorithms with short-range radar to scan individual guests for knives, guns and bombs. The device scans in real time and guests don’t need to walk through metal detectors.

PCMR units are hidden inside existing infrastructure, from turnstiles and elevator banks to walls and doorways. The beauty of the system is that people are scanned without ever realizing that they’ve been scanned.

For Westgate, the system is a perfect solution for its high-end resort. They want people to feel secure within an ambiance of freedom, excess, and unaccountability. Waltrip describes Westgate’s reasoning. "People come to Vegas because it's the fun capital of the world. They're there to let loose, rock and roll, and do things they'd never do. If they show up at their resort and they have to line up for metal detectors, or get wanded down, or walk through a gauntlet of security guards carrying rifles and pistols—that's not going make them feel comfortable. It's going to ruin their experience."

Westgate seems to have found the perfect system to merge a security presence with the desired atmosphere of excitement and fun.

Nevada has open-carry laws but guns aren’t allowed in the casinos.  "I believe in people's right to bear arms," Waltrip says. "I have a concealed carry permit myself. But, you know, on our properties, we want to maintain a safe environment, and we don't need guests bringing weapons on site. We really don't want that kind of surprise." After Mandalay Bay, the need to screen for concealed weapons is more critical than ever. However, the casinos want to do it without wands, pat-downs and metal detectors.

Patscan makes that possible Each radar unit consists of two antenne and a service box  with a combined footprint about the size of a movie poster. The first antenna can emit 1,000 pulses of electromagnetic radiation per second at frequencies between 500 MHz and 5 Ghz while the second antenna monitors for electromagnetic patterns inside the area (approximately two-meters).

When the electromagnetic radiation hits an object such as a pistol, a rifle, a knife, a machete, a pressure-cooker bomb, a grenade or a machine gun -- it will resonate. Other objects resonate as well but the weapons resonate differently based on the radar signal.  Patscan is small enough to provide the needed security without alarming the casino patrons or interfering with their vacation.

Short-term, the technology will be tested at the employee entrance but long-term, Westgate plans to expand its use to entry and exit points, baggage check areas, parking garages, registration desks, elevators and other high-traffic choke points — areas where guests traverse at some point during their visit — are of particular interest to Westgate security.

The system will involve approximately six months of training, testing, and evaluating.  The casino hopes to implement the system more broadly by late 2018.


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