The primary directive of surveillance is to protect the casino’s assets. Because of this, surveillance must educate itself on as many different aspects of operations as possible. This continuing education is not rough around the edges: they’ve got to know it all. Identifying that something is funny means knowing the boundaries of normal and reasonable outcomes. Surveillance has to master their casino’s policies and procedures. They have to keep up with the latest techniques of advantage play, cheating, theft and scams. They have to know about the latest technology. Their skill set requires wide knowledge of all aspects of gaming, as well as the ability to accurately determine the value of any aberrations they observe.

I have found some of the friendliest, most intelligent and interesting people in the industry work in surveillance departments. From the perspective of what I do, surveillance is keenly interested in knowing how their table games, marketing and promotions are being legitimately beaten by advantage players. They like to talk about games and read about games. They are interested in math and other technical issues, which really helps us get along. And most importantly, when the day is done, they’re fun to drink a beer with.

Surveillance staff are often the first to know when money is walking out the door. Their frustration is when they can’t do anything about it. They just have to let it walk. For example, suppose table games institutes a change in policy that increases their daily profit by $20,000. That’s great for table games and the bottom line profit for the casino. However, this change in policy may introduce an advantage play opportunity that can net advantage players (say) $10,000 per day. What is surveillance supposed to do here? Do they tell table games that their idea is flawed? How exactly is the idea flawed if it increases casino profit?

Likewise, marketing departments are often finding new and innovative ways to lose the casino’s money to advantage players. If marketing creates a promotion, or a multiple-points day, or coupons, or too much match/free-play, or excessive loss rebates, or too many free cars, at what point should surveillance get involved? They often know what’s going down, that advantage players are cleaning up. But what can they do if the casino’s profits are increased by a vulnerable marketing incentive?

It is not up to surveillance to micro-manage other departments. Yet they are tasked to protect the casino’s assets. This paradox means that surveillance operates on the edge, constantly weighing the risk/reward equation. It is exactly for this reason that surveillance needs as much training as they can possibly get. They need to be able to identify everything funny that’s going on, so they need to learn about every advantage play or scam that they can possibly be informed about in advance. They also need to know the value of these plays.

My purpose in writing this post is to plead with those in casino management who do not generously support ongoing training for their surveillance staff. I am pleading with those who deny requests made by their surveillance staff for additional travel to conferences. If those working in your surveillance department tell you they are hungry to increase their skills and add to their knowledge, then feed them!

About the Author
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received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in 1983. Eliot has been a Professor of both Mathematics and Computer Science. Eliot retired from academia in 2009. Eliot Jacobson