90% gaming houses in Moscow lack high quality surveillance systems. The profession of surveillance casino operator is still not so popular in our country. To be aware of the stage of our development I suggest making an excursus into the past. The beginning of gaming business development in Russia was in 1992-1993. It was the period of establishing first big gaming houses in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As a rule, in big casinos, we resorted to the help of foreign experts who had great experience in gaming industry. On their advice were installed first surveillance systems.
Many accepted standards for similar systems were taken from the foreign countries which had great experience of CCTV usage in gaming business. Traditionally, English managers were invited to run gaining business because they recruited professionals from the companies following accepted standards. The number of foreign companies presented in Moscow at that period: AVS, ZOOM International, Connect4, and Unique Camera Systems. It is well-known that England is a leader in the sphere of surveillance systems. There was created a legal base which helps to institute criminal proceedings against infringers on the basis of video data. The practice has shown that Englishmen making it their aim managed to stay high-level in this field. But if the development stopped, these gaming houses would go into decline.
Russian gaming business has been growing and developing in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the default slowed down the growth of gaming industry in the country. The crisis influenced all the industry segments. After recovering from the crisis, we observe die growth lasting to present days. By that moment casinos got used that surveillance systems became available. Any businessman opening a new casino has already known that it is necessary to have such a service. This knowledge was based on Hollywood movies about casinos. At that time we have already passed the stages of Las-Vegas development which served as plots of famous movies. Unfortunately, not everybody has understood that in time.
Business has been gradually maturing. But there was no comprehension how much should be spent on video and the main thing — what for, and what functions it performs. It was caused by the lack of experience and experts. Only few employees had an opportunity to work under supervision of foreign surveillance managers. The basic knowledge gained in the course of training is a valuable experience for development of surveillance departments. Most operators, starting this activity in a casino, had to conglomerate priceless experience step by step. At present moment there are a few of such people.
For the sake of justice it is worth underlining that even after a ten years’period I come across the lack of professionalism. It is hard to imagine how this service should be organized without basic knowledge of gaming process, procedures, and functioning of casinos‘as the entire organism. The problems posed for operators were various; sometimes they had nothing common with their direct duties.
The next important question at the earliest stage of development is who will be able to project and debug it? It was already mentioned that first systems were installed by Englishmen, now this sphere is occupied by domestic companies dealing with security industry. A lot of curious stories were provoked when people had no notion about surveillance and wanted to save up on it.
Installator: «We are an experienced company. We have installed the systems in the hotel and the bank. Everybody was pleased with our work. Everything is well done. There is nothing to criticize».
Surveillance manager: «I can see nothing!»
Installator: «Look, you can see the whole table on the screen! Do you want anything more?»
Manager: «I can see neither card, nor bet values. Besides, the table is upside down!»
Installator: «It is impossible to do what you demand. By the way, it is done on purpose that the table occupies more space on the screen. What is the difference how to look at?»
Do you remember? «Once upon a time three great craftsmen lived in a village and helped its inhabitants. They repaired everything promptly, took little money. Although it was very strange that after such repairing an iron was freezing and broadcasting radio programs»… The positive result is guaranteed only when the interests of parties coincide.
I stress upon that the emergence of installators in the market, who had taken up surveillance systems before, influenced the quality decrease of systems. It. is clear that there is a difference in approaches to surveillance systems for commercial companies and for casinos. And this difference is really significant. Naturally the equipment adjusted to casino surveillance is similar to the systems used for security in commercial companies but they differ from each other like a truck and a sport vehicle.
Gradually it was recognized what cameras and how many of them should be used. Educational articles about surveillance systems in casinos were published for the first time. The technicians from security companies contributed much to it. Everybody has learnt about live video and sound in a casino, wide-spread card swindling for 1/25 seconds, the importance of sound while the ball is falling, and other important aspects.
The cards of video signal numeralization and software created by so-called native «Bills Gatse» were .immediately offered «trusting casino owners». They could already reap the fruits of their labor. The promotion of computer technologies, computer knowledge, and passed time of video recorders played a great role in it, IT experts who penetrated in all the spheres of human activity do their best to advance such solutions.
At first sight, a computer assembling is not so difficult. We take a high-powered processor, a system board, video blasters then we install a beautiful cabinet with lamps bought in advance in the market and call it a video server. Cheap but nasty. I assure you that everything is not so easy.
Nowadays more than 70% casinos use various PC-based systems. The result of a such installations is a video of a low quality, distortion, shot falling out, and other computer troubles.
What do you think how long it will take an operator to look at the hardly distinguishable stake on the screen? A day or a week?
The right answer is not more than a month. A shift can run not in a proper way. The confidence in surveillance service is so great that it, can easily disguise its incompetence. The employees of the most intellectual department in a casino can just imitate the active work.
The modern stage of surveillance development is distinguished by mass retraining of croupiers and controllers into casino operators. On the one hand, it seems to be well founded for owners and managers taking into account the fact that the specialists and funds lack now. People who have a notion of gaining process become operators. On the other hand, some of them simply escape from a hard work in the arcade. Such an approach conflicts with the ideology revealing operator‘s functions in a casino. It only seems that the operator‘s work reminds of watching a serial for a payment. They even‘cannot imagine that people work hard behind the cameras.
Actually, such facts as the absence of qualified specialists, serious errors while projecting, and systems of low quality do not give a chance to hope that, at least, 10-15% casinos in Moscow have professionally debugged surveillance mechanisms. In principle, we observe the same situation in our community where only 10-15% people live on high living standard.
Life is constantly changing, and it sets new tasks. Within latest 10-15 years everything has changed including the people who attend casinos. They arc not the same like ten years ago. Tense competition among gaming houses makes them improve the work effectiveness. More people begin recognizing the role of surveillance as a technological television in the general business process.
Copyright © 2006, Fedor EFREMENKO
GAMING BUSINESS 1/2006