Security and surveillance is an area of casino operations that can be easy to overlook, but is—without a doubt—one of the most important. It may not be a direct revenue generator, but potential cheats and the rise in new scams lead to the threat of casinos losing money. If security is not properly maintained, lack of effort on this front will lose your operation money. How do professionals in this area of the industry stay on top of their game? They attend the World Game Protection Conference! The eighth annual event was held Feb. 25-27 at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas and brought in a record number of attendees.
Attendees from around the world took part in the three-day international conference and expo, learning about the latest casino scams, hearing from industry leaders and getting a peek at the latest surveillance technology.
World Game Protection Inc. was founded by Willy Allison in 2005. Allison wanted to create the world’s first annual international conference and expo dedicated to casino surveillance and game protection professionals, and debuted the World Game Protection Conference in 2006. It attracts everyone from surveillance managers to tribal commissioners, from casino owners, CEOs and general managers to internal auditors and investigators.
This year, attendees were treated to a variety of speakers, breakout sessions and networking opportunities. Speakers included businessman and high roller Don Johnson, the “Pokie King” Peter Liston and cheating expert and television presenter Paul Wilson.
“Our world-class speakers drew a lot of attendees this year,” Allison said. “Don’s keynote speech was tremendous; having an opportunity to listen to a player talk about casino management was huge, and I think that attracted a lot of upper-level management.”
Keynote speaker Don Johnson
Keynote speaker Don Johnson
Allison said that this year’s show featured 25 world-class speakers, 50 percent of whom were new speakers to the event. “We wanted to bring in fresh ideas,” he said. “The other 50 percent were the best of the best—the ones we invited back because of their proven success.”
The breakout sessions, or “learning labs,” were divided into four categories—cheating, theft, advantage play and surveillance—and each featured expert speakers. “I was really impressed with the speakers and the breakout sessions,” said Isle of Capri Surveillance Director Bret Kennon. “I felt that all the classes were completely cutting-edge on the latest and greatest of what we deal with on a day-to-day basis. I learned a ton!”
A surveillance directors’ meeting was held on Monday afternoon. This three-hour closed-door information and intelligence sharing meeting was hosted by L’Auberge du Lac Director of Surveillance Darrin Hoke and covered the latest scams and surveillance topics. It was during this meeting that Allison says the team first introduced and utilized audience response systems as a way of gathering information. “We put together 20 to 30 questions, and during the three hours we’d poll everyone in the audience instead of asking for a show of hands,” Allison said. “Everyone would vote, and a graph would show up on the slide.”
Allison and his team plan to use this data to compile a white paper that will be written in the next few months, focusing on the hottest topics in surveillance. Allison says that everyone who attended the conference will get a copy, and it will be used as a follow-up to the topics discussed in the meeting.
Other highlights of the show included the Eighth Annual Blackjack Challenge, which was won by Andy Cheda, a surveillance investigative analyst from The Cosmopolitan, and the Lifetime Achievement award that was given to Arthur Miller, the founder of Tech Art Inc., and inventor of the MAXTime blackjack hole card reader in the ‘80s, for his continued contributions to the casino industry.
Overall, Allison could not be more pleased with the turnout of this year’s event. Interestingly, he describes the event as a “helicopter ride over the casino business.” He continues: “It was a thought-provoking big-picture look at the casino industry, but attendees had choices with the learning labs, where they could brush up their skills. We all know that person who flies the helicopter too high and who needs to bring it down and land it in the trenches to find out what’s really going on!”
No matter how you describe it, this year’s World Game Protection conference was a sure success. And while the importance of security can get lost in the glitz and glam of the casino floor, it remains the behind-the-scenes super hero of the gaming industry.