With the advent of smartphones, the possibility of helpful technology in casino game players pockets has never been greater; what does this mean for casinos?
Ever since there have been card games and casinos, there has been people trying to win; win fairly, win unfairly and win by any means possible. Cheating has always been a part of gambling culture; the two concepts exist and are mutually exclusive.
Things changed drastically in 1962 when ‘How to Beat the Dealer’ by Edward O. Thorpe was published; which was the first book to mathematically prove that players could gain an edge over the house when playing blackjack, and walk away with more money than they went in with. This was achievable through the now famous blackjack strategy of card-counting.
Now with widespread information of card-counting and other methods of trying to take money from the casino, readily available in players own pockets, the casinos have stepped up their game and employ the latest technology in an effort to stay on top.
Cheating at the Casino
In simpler times, people would rely on weighted dice, palming other players’ chips or just keeping a few extra cards up their sleeves if they wanted to guarantee earning at the casino tables.
The problem was that as soon as a known method of cheating was discovered the possibility of employing the same technique reduced drastically; eventually casinos began improving security and concealing props or items to bring out onto the table soon became out-dated.
After Thorpe developed the card-counting technique he also designed the world’s first wearable computer. He took the computer on a trip to the casino and used the machine to aid him in playing, and winning, at roulette. This was the first recorded instance of someone using a computer as a gambling aid.
Thorpe’s efforts and contributions to the games led him to being inducted to the Blackjack Hall of Fame, and opened the door for new technology aided ways to beat the dealer. Ultimately, this opened up another door and spawned new inventions which are now being used in casinos across the world.
Electronic Table Game Systems
Basically everything has gone electronic, digital, or went under some for of technological improvement these days; I suppose that’s just the inevitability of technological progression. Keeping on top in the casino is no exception.
Player objections to new technology
• ‘Big brother’ concerns about constant surveillance and data gathering
• Player profiles can be created allowing the casino to keep a ‘rap-sheet’ of all their activities in the building; not all are comfortable with this
• Card-counters are not breaking the law, but new technology usually makes operators treat them as if they are; no comps etc.
In their case, the very tables games are played on have become significantly technologically advanced. There are two predominant types of table gaming systems now used to make sure that anyone winning at blackjack or any other table games, is winning purely by chance.
The first is optical scanning. Cards are marked with invisible bar codes, and chips with unique edge markings on the chip edges; the bar codes and markings are then read via optical scanners when the cards or chips come into play on the table.
As the cards are dealt out of the shoe, the invisible code is scanned and can verify the cards which reduces the risk of fraud or additional cards being introduced into the deck. Scanners located in the table can read the chips, therefore knowing their location and how much each player bets.
Dynamic tracking of which cards are in the game, what cards each player has in their hand and the players betting habits allow the casino operators significant quantities of data which can then be analyzed and easily detect anyone who they suspect of having an edge over the house.
Chip Tracking and Hi-Tech Chip Design
The second type of table works in conjunction with the chips still, but does not read cards.
Casino chips are fitted with RFID tags, and the tables with RFID antennae. This allows operators the ability to track the chip, and player, throughout the casino across all tables; it also allows real-time accountancy managing as bosses have up-to-date information about where the money is and what is being done with it.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was recently featured in Atlantic City casino gambling news due to the scandal which is now being referred to as ‘chip-gate’; when over $800,000 worth of counterfeit chips had been found to be in circulation within the casino.
As a security measure, the casino have now introduced hi-tech chips which will ensure counterfeiting won’t occur again; the chips have unique features on them such as ultra-violet markings which can be used to identify legit casino chips and detect fakes.
It is likely that future chip design will become more sophisticated and perhaps all will contain tracking devices.
Always watching; always
Everyone knows that when you go into a casino you’ve got to smile, because you’re literally constantly under the thousands of cameras eyes.
Casinos use state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and employ specific teams who have the sole purpose of sifting through recorded images to look for known undesirables or irregular behavior. This is colloquially known as ‘the eye in the sky’.
Typically between 80-95% of all casino areas are covered with the camera systems, and at least one person is always at the other end watching you; sometimes there’s going to be a whole team.
Recently, there have even been instances of cameras located at casino entrances and parking areas. Cameras scan the license plates of potential guests; pictures of every plate are then run through optical character-recognition software and if your plate matches a database of undesirables, the security personnel may hand back your keys and suggest you take your business elsewhere.
Technology is helping casinos to over-come security risks and losing, what they would call unnecessary, amounts of money to their gambling guests. As technology advances at such a rate now, it’s likely that we will see even more inclusion of hi-tech equipment at the betting tables.
There is talk of optical character recognition software systems which will be able to identify which cards are in your hand, and keep an eye on what you’re doing; ultimately the software will operate without a controller and will be able to identify counters or cheats based on their behavior.
Cheats will always be looking for new ways to beat the systems; remember, casino operators still get paid if they don’t catch anyone, where-as cheats only get paid if they are successful. Who do you think has the most motivation?
The cat-and-mouse game will go on for as long as people want something for nothing; or something for less effort than actually working. Good on them; let the games continue.