The Great Resignation has affected every industry, including casinos and resorts, especially where venue security is concerned. Implementing facial recognition technology is one way to alleviate this problem. Labor in the gaming and hospitality industry is down 1.5 million jobs from its pre-pandemic levels.
It would be easy to say, “We can’t keep up or adapt to this changing environment.” However, it would be far more fruitful to weather the storm and use technology to your advantage to both supplement the existing workforce and make up for the loss of labor.
Let’s consider for a moment the state the casino industry is in and how it could pivot to meet the latest challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and changing employee needs.
What Challenges Are Casinos Facing When It Comes to Finding Right-Fit Security and Surveillance Employees?
Working in security or surveillance at a casino is both demanding and challenging, but if I had to choose what’s hardest about the industry from a labor perspective, it’s twofold: the jobs themselves and the workload.
First, it's tough to fill jobs in this particular field. We’re seeing former casino workers transitioning to new careers because this is a demanding and always-on industry based around shift work. The fact of the matter is that most people don’t want to work from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and we have fewer people who are willing to do the work.
Beyond that, the workload has not decreased, and many don’t want to continue with an increasing workload and limited support. As the industry struggles, we have more to get done with fewer staff members—and considerably more tasks have been assigned to them. So as a result, casinos aren’t keeping criminals off the premises any longer. Perhaps you’ve taken self-excluded patrons off the marketing list or monitored for them manually, but you simply don’t have the people or technology to stop them if they try to get in.
The Impact of Facial Recognition
Prior to the deployment of facial recognition systems, you were really lucky if you could stumble upon somebody whose photograph was logged in a mug book and identify them just by looking at a camera monitor trained on an entrance to a casino. People aren’t particularly good at recognizing faces. We have the capacity to recognize approximately 1,500 people at a time—what we call Dunbar’s number—and that's a problem.
Facial recognition has the capacity to recognize unlimited faces and allows people to do more with less. You can simply look at the data and focus on things that are likely to pay dividends.
Facial recognition systems also make casino jobs more interesting and encourage people to stay. Additionally, they’re more effective than human labor alone, so you can do the same amount of work—or even more—with fewer people.
What Risks Do Casinos Face If They Don't Have Adequate On-Site Security?
I used to run security and surveillance departments, and I was occasionally confronted with, “Why am I spending so much on security? Nothing happens.”
However, some people don’t realize that nothing happens because they’re spending money on security. Without that investment, you very quickly realize what would have happened: an increase in incidents and criminals taking advantage of “weaker” targets. Failing to provide adequate security and surveillance carries safety, reputational, and financial risks.
Safety starts from the inside—for your employees. A dealer, slot attendant, or bartender doesn’t expect to have to break up fights as part of their job; it's not what they signed up for. However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, your casino will be perceived as an unsafe environment and you will lose staff members.
On top of all this, once a venue is perceived to be unsafe or to not take safety seriously, that perception brings unwelcome attention to the casino. As a result, you could have massive reputational difficulties.
Your reputation is a huge driver for your casino business, and your name means something—but so does the experience. If you get a reputation for being a problematic venue, people will find alternatives, impacting the clientele you attract to the club.
For example, if a few bar fights spill onto the game floor and you don’t do anything or patrons perceive that you aren’t taking action, that has ripple effects. Potential high rollers won’t want to spend their time and money in a casino where they feel threatened and unsafe.
Obviously theft and cheating are both substantial financial risks for your casino, but it’s much bigger than that. There are also financial risks concerning compliance and licensing. If your venue is deemed to not care about the law, you're going to have enhanced scrutiny from law enforcement.
In certain cases, your venue could be fined considerable sums of money for not living up to its legal obligations regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. You could also lose your premises license for various violations, resulting in all the people who rely on you for employment losing their jobs.
Enhanced security and facial recognition can eliminate a lot of these things because you can deal with threats and keep out the people who should not be in your venue. Not having an adequate security department or risk assessment program drives away good customers and affects the bottom line.
What Do You Need to Keep In Mind When Implementing Technology?
When you’re weighing security and surveillance technology options such as facial recognition, you can’t go about it haphazardly. Instead, it’s essential to know what you want to achieve. I recommend defining that endgame first, and then looking at your options through the lens of how each will bring you closer to your goals.
Develop an Aim
When you begin to compare facial recognition providers and tools, ask yourself two questions: “What is this technology going to do?” and “What is the intended outcome?” You should have a clear idea in mind of why and how you’d like to use a new technology beyond simply staying on the cusp of the latest trends.
Evaluate Technologies with Your Aim In Mind
Once you have your aim, start getting at the heart of what different systems can do. If you have an aim and desired measurable outcomes based on that aim, you can look at solutions that will allow you to achieve your goals.
However, the quality of the technology solution matters even more than its placement. You also need good-quality photographs, good views, cameras with the right focal length, and proper lighting. How do the solutions you’re considering stand up to these needs?
The U.S. economy and labor force are not nearly at the end of their widespread labor shortages, and casinos and hospitality venues are stuck in the middle. We’re in a unique position of having to not only continue along with standard operations but also ensure safety and security at all times—despite staffing conditions. Facial recognition and identity management technology bridges the gap.
eConnect does not own this content. All credit goes to its rightful owner. This article was originally published by Security Magazine on August 5, 2022.
About the Author
Malcolm has been involved in the Casino industry since 1988, initially in Operational Gaming and, from 1995 onward in Surveillance and Investigations. In Greece, Morocco, the United Kingdom in Macau; picking up wide and varied experience along the way. He is now responsible for Project Development and Management with eConnect as well as looking after sales and customer relations in the APAC region. Malcolm has helped develop the scope and operational functionality of the eConnect family of optimization and loss prevention products as well as expounding a new paradigm for the future course of the company, with a focus on the benefits and potential of artificial intelligence; and how it can be used to identify patterns, and areas of concern, for human intervention. While at the Galaxy Entertainment Group he was responsible for recruiting a twenty-one strong team to investigate all elements of fraud and crime within the entire organization. Committed to lifelong learning he continues to study with the likes of the Open University and Coursera, such diverse subjects as Business and Marketing, Fraud, Economics, History, Genetics and Terrorism. Malcolm continues to split his time between the United States, Europe, and the Far East.