Securing casinos

March 2010 Integrated Solutions, Entertainment and Hospitality (Industry)

A leading risk specialist, we shall call him Mr Smith, comments on the intricacies of securing casinos.

Security is an integrated effort and Smith gives huge credence to the critical role that risk specialists play during the construction phase of any hotel, casino or entertainment facility. Unfortunately, this role is all too often underplayed, even ignored.

“Security has to be built into the structure from inception. Unfortunately key decision makers in the hospitality industry are often out of touch with the fundamentals of security and risk management; they believe that using the skills of security specialists at planning and building phase is unnecessary, leaving the implementation of security measures to themselves, the developer, the architect, the engineer and the designer,” he argues. “But resort and casino security should be treated as a highly specialised task that requires the skills of security professionals familiar with the running of a casino.”

Sound security strategies specific to the design of the structure, should be built in from the pre-planning phase. Security can not be left until the end. Casino and hotel resorts need to analyse everything – right up to how the access gates are positioned relative to the public road.

Camera security

Casinos are legislated by the Gaming Act to have a certain amount of cameras in place and as far as Smith is concerned, 'the more cameras the better'. He cautions, however, that camera security is a reactive security.

A sophisticated, high-security casino can have up to 800 cameras on its casino floor. There will always be at least one central control room where cameras are monitored. Some companies in the hotel sector are still loath to spend too much money on camera security and do not utilise them to their advantage. “There should always be a combination of camera technology backed up by an effective reaction force in order for a security strategy to be truly effective,” he says.

Physical security

Technology aside, all casinos need a core group of well-trained experienced security personnel that can be trusted to work in partnership with the technology. There is the gaming security, complex security, as well as senior surveillance personnel comprising highly trained individuals with gaming background. Most casinos nowadays have an armed reaction force, often with military training.

Physical security is often secured through contract agreements. According to Smith, these contract employment companies often have highly dependent relationships with the casino they work with, resulting in a very close relationship between the two. “A security company is also only as good as the management on site,” he argues adding that managers literally have to push outsourced companies to perform to the casino’s standards.

Integrated solution

Because security forms such an integral part of casino activity, sophisticated integrated security solutions are now the norm. A panic button will automatically set off PTZ cameras to zoom into the area of concern, which will be monitored by the central control room. In turn, another alarm will alert the tactical team. Fire and gas detectors (a legal requirement) are also linked to the integrated system.

Smith advises against using one company to provide the whole security solution. “Using a selection of smaller companies is often very effective because you get to know the people well and they learn to understand your needs.”

Pilfering, collusion and armed robbery

Smith maintains that most gaming corruption takes place amongst the junior levels and remains inherently in-house. Pilfering is common with solutions constantly having to be re-hashed to cover the problem. Slot machines, for example, are moving away from dealing in direct cash and security at the gambling tables has to be tightly monitored. The temptation for an employee to slip a R10 000 chip into his/her pocket can sometimes be too enticing.

Collusion however, while an ongoing problem (whether between staff and punters or staff and staff), is, according to Smith, on the decline. “But this has come at a cost. To install highly sophisticated surveillance technology to keep collusion at bay is extremely expensive.”

The biggest threats to casinos are armed robbers, who are fuelled by syndicates focusing specifically on casinos. They are largely Zimbabwean. A highly specialised team is employed to take on this kind of crime.

However, at the end of it all Smith says: “you are probably safer in a large casino complex than you are in Sandton.”

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