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Glitz, glamour and ... geeks?

Susan Tsang | Aug. 20, 2008
Casinos have long been associated with glitz and glamour, but with IT systems becoming critical for the gaming industry, Susan Tsang reports that the 'geeks', and their handiwork, are becoming increasingly entrenched in Asia's 21st century gaming palaces.

Ticket-in/ticket-out technology (TITO), in place in the US for some years, has led to completely cashless slot floors in most major American casinos. Casino operators say that removing coins from the equation is more convenient for customers who no longer have to wait for cash payouts. TITO also dramatically decreases cash handling costs for the operator.

And, as in every other business enterprise, innovation is on-going for casinos, always on the look-out for new techniques to maximise profit.

New gaming devices include turning the traditional slot machines into dumb terminals, rather than discrete boxes dedicated to one game each. Instead, there will be just a single network, with games stored on servers, ready to be called up to any terminal.

Server-based gaming (SBG) technology will allow casino officials to change the games according to what is popular at any given time. Regulations to govern server-based gaming are being developed in individual US states. Nevada has introduced regulations to prohibit the casino from changing the game while a customer is playing. The machine must be idle for four minutes before a change is made, and then after the change, another four minutes must pass before anyone can play the machine.

Chips in chips?

Wynn Las Vegas started the RFID chip approach rolling three years ago, putting radio frequency identification (RFID) tags into its casino chips. These tags allow readers, linked to the casino's computer systems, to detect counterfeit betting chips.

By installing RFID readers and computers at game tables, staff can tally the chips being wagered, and double-check the reader's figure with what has been laid on the table. This should expose cheats who attempt to add more chips to their bets if they win. Cashiers can also check the RFID tally against chips that are cashed in. These systems can be used to mathematically calculate whether somebody is a good player, or a cheat.

In addition, the 'smart chips' can help the casino check on the credit they issue to gamblers, and so help the casino manage its risk. If the serial numbers in the chips they lend out are mostly returned by a different customer, it could be a sign that a player is 'lending' his credit to another player, which is not kosher.

The RFID system can also be used to monitor players, to offer them free rooms, meals and perks depending on how much they bet, and how often, in order to keep the loyalty of the biggest betters.

Black glass domes

According to Fusion, video monitoring and supporting systems such as software, storage and analytics are the most significant areas of IT expenditure for casino security.


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