As technology inevitably improves, so do the security measures that are taken by land-based casinos in ensuring the protection of the patrons of the casino. However, in addition to protecting the patrons, the casino is perhaps even more interested in protecting its bottom line. In that regard, many of the new forms of technology available can also be used to protect the financial interests of the casino itself from advantage players.
Of course, when one reads an article about these sorts of things published by mainstream sites or media outlets, and even more so when one speaks to casino representatives, advantage players are often unfairly lumped into a group that is simply called, ‘Cheaters.’ Make no bones about it, the best advantage players seek out mathematical advantages in the casino using means that are both mathematically valid and, most importantly, legal.
As we have seen in a number of incidents throughout the years, and as can easily be found by doing a simple Google search for, ‘Bob Nersesian,’ many casinos have treated advantage players employing both legitimate and legal tactics not just as cheaters, but occasionally, as criminals. While the likelihood of being unfairly detained, or even worse, physically assaulted is far less than it used to be, that does not stop casinos from using a number of other means, especially given the technology available to them, to detect the presence of an advantage player and remove either him or her from the property. This article will explore a few of those means:
One such form of technology comes in the form of license plate readers which are routinely used outside of casinos for tollbooths and other purposes:
While many of these means involve snapping a picture of a license plate as a car passes, the more advanced license plate readers can actually take a picture and scan it, almost simultaneously, to see if the license plate is in a given database. As the above-linked page indicates, the police are using it now and have the capability to scan hundreds of license plates per minute which are then cross-referenced to lists of suspicious vehicles that might be housing a driver or passenger who is wanted.
However, while casino cops are not an official branch of law enforcement, a casino’s security staff can also implement license plate readers in order to detect automobiles associated with a banned patron, or otherwise associated with a person that the casino does not want on the property.
In the old days, casinos would often share information about advantage players, many of them as innocuous as simple blackjack card counters, and this information might include a picture. Perhaps a casino would share the make, model and color of a vehicle, but that would not necessarily be enough to act on in the event that the suspected card counter visited another casino. The Griffin Book often had more in-depth information on such advantage players, (and, yes, some people in Griffin were bona fide cheaters, but not most) but even then, recognition in the Griffin Book was not necessarily enough for a casino to take action against a particular player prior to the player even sitting down, and that is especially true if the casino wasn’t sure of the person’s identity.
All of that could change with the simple implementation of license plate readers. A casino who bans a patron and determines what that patron’s license plate number is, or perhaps just a casino who suspects a patron of advantage play but has not yet banned him or her, could share that individual’s license plate information with other casinos who could add it to their database in order for it to, ‘Trigger,’ when the car in question enters the property. Some false flags might come up as a result, for instance, someone who is not the player in question might be using the same vehicle the advantage player used, or alternatively, the advantage player may have been using a vehicle that belonged to someone else. Ultimately, the combination of a license plate match and a general physical description might be enough to lead a casino the assumption that the player entering is the advantage player that they wish to ban.
Another necessary result of this is that official bannings will be a little bit more difficult to circumvent, as well. Prior to all of these technological advancements, a blackjack card counter who did not cause too much of a scene, for example, might wait a few months before going into a casino from which he or she was, ‘Backed off,’ and the staff of that casino will often have largely forgotten about a person. While there are criminal trespass related statutes in many states that legally prohibit a player from entering a casino from which he or she was banned, as a practical matter, many so situated players can and did enter casinos even after an official banning. License plate recognition software as well as other forms of recognition will make it more difficult for such players to so much as enter the casino in the future.
Another form of recognition that casinos are likely to eventually employ is that of facial recognition. For those of you who don’t think facial recognition is a serious threat, then I would suggest reading this article on what might be the company with the most accurate facial recognition algorithm anywhere in the world:
It’s not a security company or a company that helps support police departments: It’s Facebook.
The key to having accurate facial recognition software is the ability for the software to capture a person from different angles, and preferably, in different facial states, (examples: smiling, frowning, neutral, etc.) thereby resulting in the software having the ability to compare a face captured on camera at a few different angles to pictures and other footage that is stored in the memory of the software at a myriad of different angles and facial positions.
The article linked above states that Facebook’s facial recognition, which also includes pictures taken in different lighting, is so accurate that it can identify a person ninety-eight percent of the time. For those of you who think that is a crazy success rate, it absolutely is. I haven’t done an exhaustive study on my memory for faces, but shooting from the hip, I would say that I remember the faces of barely 75% of people to whom I have been personally introduced. Facebook, on the other hand, can pick the right person out 98% of the time.
Furthermore, a casino would not necessarily need as rich a database as Facebook has access to in order to successfully identify people. When people play machines or table games, they are often completing the same motions and, depending on the circumstances, could be seen in their, ‘Neutral,’ facial expression for a plethora of different angles. The lighting in many casinos often seems to be similar to that of other casinos with the range being bright to quite dim with seemingly nothing in between. Even then, unlike Facebook, the casinos are also going to be limited, to some extent, by who the person in question is even likely to be.
Once again, this facial recognition software and any images captured by the cameras are such that the information can be shared amongst any number of casinos who choose to cooperate with one another in that regard. To wit, it’s a simple matter of transferring files to each other, which is so simple that two Internet users who have never met can do it without even speaking to one another. In fact, they could do just that over a decade ago, it was the entire subject matter of the Napster lawsuit.
When this facial recognition software is theoretically combined with license plate recognition software, virtually any, ‘Known,’ advantage player that the casino does not want on the property is going to be dead to rights, short of wearing a mask or otherwise modifying his or her facial features.
According to this article:
In a non-confined setting, the main problem with facial recognition software that houses a ton of images is that it results in many false positives. However, a casino could theoretically decide only to download images of advantage players and/or suspected advantage players (as well as actual bona fide undesirables) into the system, which would mean that the system is only trying to pick out of a very finite number of people and only has a finite number of people to choose from.
For a basis of comparison, as a human, imagine if I were to line up one-hundred people that all looked reasonably different, and then I handed you a picture of one of those people and gave you ten minutes to select the person from the picture, could it even reasonably be expected, absent a pair of identical twins, that you would fail in excess of 0% of the time.
Of course, casinos are going to be likely to avoid taking adverse actions against customers that they would like to keep on the property, at least, adverse actions that the customers would know about. However, if an individual triggers the facial recognition software with a significant confidence rate compared to someone the casino would prefer not be present, then you can bet your bottom dollar that surveillance, and perhaps even security, will be monitoring the person closely to as much an extent as practicable.
It is even more important to recognize the fact that facial recognition technology is in its infancy and is very much an industry that continues to grow. Furthermore, it is difficult to say to what degree any privacy laws would protect you given that you would be a patron of a private company. At best, there might be a required posting inside of casinos that they are using facial recognition software, but even then, that posting isn’t going to do anything to help an advantage player who the casino might want out.
Technology continues to grow at an incredible rate and continues to touch us in all aspects of our lives. It does a great many things including interconnecting us, making communication both easier and more efficient, giving us access to a number of tools on one portable device, essentially at all times, that either didn’t exist mere decades ago or, alternatively, would have required the use of several devices. Furthermore, technological advancements have also served to improve the healthcare industry making treatment of certain ailments easier.
On the flip side, however, there are a number of negative aspects that come about by way of technological improvements. One of the most obvious negative aspects is the fact that technology can also serve to replace several of what may have once been good-paying jobs that required manual labor. Furthermore, with great advancements in technology come the need for continuing education, whether it be formal or informal, in order to stay, ‘Ahead of the curve,’ and to be able to compete and merely function at the same level as the rest of society.
It’s quite a unique thing in a way. Objectively, I am almost certainly more intelligent than my eight year old son. If you were to provide both he and I with a written test on any subject matter whatsoever, (except subjects that I literally know nothing about, the thematic elements inherent in the works of Pablo Picasso, for example, and he just happens to outguess me) I would be well and thoroughly embarrassed if he were to perform better than me, and more so if he were to utterly demolish me. With that said, however, when I am trying to, ‘Help,’ him with something on his tablet, he often finds himself having to explain some of the finer functions of his tablet to me, for example, the location of the button that turns the damn thing on!
The point of the matter is that the technology available to casinos is improving, and as always, casinos are going to be quite likely to spend more money in an effort to prevent advantage play than they would actually lose to advantage players. Either way, the result is the same, advantage players are simply going to have to be one step ahead of the technology that is available to the casinos in order to succeed.