Subscriber Discussion

Why Casinos Lack Surveillance In Their Hallways?

The AP found that 23 of the 27 major casinos on the Las Vegas strip had no cameras in their hallways or elevator landings. Like this story says, I've always thought casinos had to be pretty well watched considering the number of cameras on the casino floor, but it's weird to me that this doesn't extend off the floor to the hallways as well -- especially considering their patrons could possibly be walking around with large amounts of money and that elevator landings and hallways are also common egress/entry points. Anyone with experience in a casino know why this is?

(1) It would cost a small fortune to do so for every hallway on every floor.

(2) Their high risk areas are in gaming, not hallways.

But aren't they already spending a small fortune to put so many cameras on the gaming floor? Seems like a camera for each hall wouldn't be too bad.

The tallest hotel/casino in Vegas is the Palazzo and it has 53 floors. The Bellagio has 36 floors and has around 2,000 cameras already. An MGM Grand Casino in Connecticut has 31 floors and has 4,000 cameras. So they already have a lot. Would it be a significant purchase to a casino to add one at each landing when they already have hundreds elsewhere?

I bet it's just that the number of incidents and the total value of incidents in hallways is far far lower than in gaming.

The other issue is that cameras that are farther away (hallways on higher floors, etc.) are more expensive for running/ installing cabling.

Do they have cameras in the elevator cabs? Seems like a more economical option, even with the pain of a traveling cable and all that garbage.

Ok guys you can stop pretending you're not waiting for Carl to chime in.

I was going to say isn't he the go-to thought leader on all things casino surveillance on here?

Carl- I'm interested in hearing your expert opinion on this subject. I live in New Jersey so I am known to hit up Atlantic City now and then. This subject interests me.

Btw, this same question can be asked for regular hotels (even higher end ones), where floor cameras are uncommon as well.

What happens in 'Vegas stays in 'Vegas, and perhaps the hotel/casino operators would rather not document who goes to what room. Privacy versus security issue?

From my understanding, the "gaming" and "hotel" security operations are essentially 2 very different groups.

Cameras on the casino floor are there to protect the casino

Cameras in the hallway are there to protect the guests.

Without guests, I suppose you don't have much gaming, but I think this is mostly a matter of financial incentives. If you've made it up to your room, you're already past the gaming floor and not worth much to them ;)

Sorry for the late reply. I was out of the loop for a while.

Casinos' camera coverage depends on regulatory requirements, budgets and the perceived value of video surveillance by owners and/or management. Corporate-owned casinos are notoriously budget concious when it comes to any expenditure that doesn't contribute directly to income. Not every one, mind you, but many "suits" would prefer to deploy the minimum surveillance necessary to meet regulatory needs. This explains why there are still a number of casinos recording their video on VCRs in this day and age.

In Nevada, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has licensing authority for all gaming operations. Regulation 5A Surveillance Standards for Nonrestricted Licensees specifies camera coverage of Slot Machines, Table Games, Card Games, Keno and Bingo, Sports Wagering, Cages and Vault, Count Rooms and Security Offices. No mention is made of hallways or elevator landings. Strictly speaking, any area not specifically mentioned is up to the owners/management. New Jersey and other states with legalized non-Indian gaming have their own sets of rules and regulations, most based at least in part on Nevada's (why reinvent the wheel?).

"Tribal Casinos" must meet other sets of regulations depending on the tribe's tribal-state compact and class of gaming (II (based on Bingo) or III (Vegas-style)). All casinos also make their own decision on how much coverage they want/need above the minimums.

So you wind up with some casinos, like ours, where every square inch of the gaming floor and most of our "back of house" is covered whereas others just deploy required cameras on gaming tables, progressive slot machines which exceed specified minimum jackpot payouts and cash handling, counting and storage areas.

The sureveillance dept doesnt generate any income so there isn't an ROI for upper management to justify any purchase that's not required or going to save them money on insurance premiums. Additionally, many Vegas casinos require that new camera runs be housed in conduit all the way to the camera/drop. This compounds the cost of installation.

I agree with J. Honovich, most casinos monitor they're tables and slots because that is where they make they're money and that is where people cheat...

I always cringe when I am at Gaming Protection Conferences and surveillance executives indicate that they don’t get the support they need from the C-Suite “because surveillance doesn’t generate revenue”. In my experience, this is an excuse used by those who have not learned to successfully educate the C-Suite and can’t demonstrate the value of a properly managed surveillance department.

In fairness to C-Suite/Property Owners, why should they provide valuable capital funds to a department that simply states they have a need (training budget, technology, etc) but fail to back the request with data to support their argument?

From building a new casino to managing an existing property, when value is demonstrated and the budget is properly prepared, there isn’t much that I have been denied. But understand that to get to this point, it takes commitment and the ability to provide specific and measurable data to support your design/budget needs.


I understand what you're saying but having dealt with both open-minded organizations and closed-minded organizations in my career, I can vouch for the existence of the mindset that views Surveillance as a nonprofitable albatross around the casino's neck.

It's not the savings that can be demonstrated that are the problem but the savings in terms of prevention that are the most difficult to justify. If we catch an employee stealing, the amount stolen and potential future loss can be estimated. If we catch an advantage player and back him off or flat bet him, the amount of gain he made can be extrapolated out in terms of house losses.

In any well-run casino organization, the quantified total of the above savings is typically a small fraction of the Surveillance Department's budget and therein lies the problem. How does a department quantify potential losses prevented just by their existence or their efficiency? I've discussed this with a number of Surveillance departments that have run into that wall. So-called bean counters often go on tangibles alone and defining the intangibles typically does nothing to convince them otherwise.

By the way, considering what I've heard from people at some other organizations, I count myself lucky that I'm employed by an open-minded organization that recognizes both the value of our department and that we don't ask for or spend more than we actually need.

I think you are spot on here: Your organization recognizes the value of your department AND you don't ask for or spend more than you actually need.

Really, it is a combination of both factors that are critically important. Would your department be valued if you asked for unnecessary tools? Or didn't plan for capital budget prior to the new year start?

My point earlier was driven by the fact that I so often hear excuses as to why surveillance isn't supported, but when you really drive down on the issues you find that directors are unaware of when budgets are due, do not know the capital plan for the upcoming year and fail to provide data to back up their needs.

Melissa, Carl, the last few comments have become very high level - demonstrating value, don't make excuses, etc.

I do not see, though, any specific comments on how one can specifically demonstrate sufficient value relative to the cost for cameras in hallways of room areas.

It seems that the 'value' of cameras is far higher in gaming than in room hallways. Yes/no?


You have a number of issues here. For gaming, the Surveillance Department typically has control of camera installations based on whatever regulations the casino has to follow. For non-gaming applications, a lot more entities get involved, including the different departments responsible for each area.

In Las Vegas, as was mentioned before, you also have to deal with very strict building codes - the result primarily of the MGM Grand fire in 1980. All cable must be installed in conduit, requiring additional expense, time and disruption. Other venues could allow plenum-rated cable on hangers.

The installation would likely disrupt operations in each area as it is being performed. That would affect the hotel's bottom line. Then, as I believe was also mentioned, you have certain customers' desire for anonymity - the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." mentality. A certain percentage of customers would prefer that no one sees them returning to their room with the bleached blonde arm in arm.

Thanks, Carl. That makes sense.

So is it safe to say that there is not sufficient 'value' in putting cameras there (because of the logistical issues and customer preferences) rather than surveillance management not being capable of educating the 'c-suite' on the value of this?

Like I said, it depends on the venue. I've been in a number of Tribal casinos and many of them have cameras in elevators and hallways but I've also been in a number of Las Vegas casinos that didn't. I would assume that the corporate factor, cost, installation difficulty and even building age come into play.

I would have to agree with John and say that its based on number of incidents and overall history of where crime happends.