As state-of-the-art surveillance technology continues to advance, so does security at Indian-owned casinos across the country.
For the proprietors of one of the largest gaming facilities in the world, Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, high-tech security with cutting-edge surveillance was an investment they were happy to make. It’s also one that seems to have paid off, with quicker response times by highly trained security staff who are ready for any situation that may arise.
Foxwoods’s six casinos cover 4.7 million square feet, with 340,000 square feet of gaming space. With an area that large, the Mashantucket Pequots make security a top priority. Director of Security Operations Russell Adams said that security at Foxwoods is state-of-the-art, but that doesn’t stop him from constantly being on the lookout for ways to improve the systems with the latest technology.
Because Foxwoods is such a large facility, its security team averages between 350 to 370 total staff members. Security officers come from all walks of life; among them are former homemakers, high school graduates, senior citizens, ex-police and -corrections officers, teachers and even shipbuilders. Newly hired officers attend a 40-hour class where they learn report writing, CPR, automated external defibrillator (AED) techniques, emergency procedures, alcohol-awareness training, methods of nonviolent-intervention, safety procedures and an overview of each post and its duties and responsibilities.
Though each security officer is trained to perform CPR, the security department has between 15 and 20 trained emergency medical response technicians (EMTs) and medical response technicians (MRTs) on staff.
“Our security department has the most lives saved in the state of Connecticut right here in our casino buildings because of our talented staff of EM and MRTs,” Adams said. “I am very proud of that. Security staff and our EMTs and MRTs work as a team to treat thousands and thousands of guests a year, and they do a phenomenal job. Our security team has even won awards from the American Heart Association for its outstanding work.” The casino has taken the additional step of contracting with a local ambulance company to have an advanced life-support unit with a paramedic on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Adams estimates that between 40,000 and 75,000 guests visit Foxwoods each day. It is therefore to be expected that an occasional scuffle will break out or a guest will sometimes require immediate medical attention. Negative publicity may result, said executive director of security Amondo Sebastian, but it is easily outweighed by his team’s successes in containing the situation.
Surveillance technology inside the Foxwoods Security Command Center monitors the resort's 6 million square feet including six casino floors. (Courtesy of Foxwoods Resort Casino)
“A quick response and mitigation of the situation results in minimal press coverage, if any,” he said. “If there is an event, we contact our public relations department immediately to quickly and accurately disseminate information to the press.”
Foxwoods’s most recent high-profile incident occurred in February when rapper Jim Jones was arrested after attending Sean “Diddy” Combs’s party on the property; Jones allegedly assaulted an officer during a brawl involving at least five people in the foyer of the MGM Grand casino, the Associated Press reported. Because both the Connecticut state police and tribal police are located on-site within the casino complex, Sebastian said, they can respond to an emergency at any location on the casino complex within minutes.
“We send available personnel and supervisors to the area to minimize the problem and perform crowd control,” he added. “Since we respond so quickly and get the problem off the gaming floor, these types of scuffles are quickly contained and do not disrupt business or guests. We actually received letters complimenting our prompt response to the most recent situation.”
Adams urges casinos that have endured bad publicity as the result of altercations to consider that such incidents are, generally speaking, relatively rare. As it is, Adams believes that because his security team constitutes such a large presence at Foxwoods, and because it has established a good relationship with patrons, people feel secure and understand when unfortunate happenings break out.
“Our surveys confirm that our level of security and the patrons’ comfort level was the number-one thing people like about Foxwoods,” he said.
Adams said that casinos can usually head off most confrontations and damaging publicity before they happen by knowing the number of people in the complex, what special events may be going on, the types of acts performing and what kind of crowds those acts will draw. Or, to put it another way, forewarned is forearmed.
Fraud, external and internal theft and what security professionals call “slip and falls” are also under constant monitoring by casino security staff. Casino security departments throughout the country maintain communication in touch with one another, Adams said, and share information on shoplifting or fraud taking place by individuals or teams so they can be prepared in case those same people target their casinos.
“The technology is amazing today,” said Sebastian. “We have almost 7,000 cameras throughout the Foxwoods property, so there isn’t much we don’t see. You can’t pick your nose without somebody knowing it.”
Frank Santamorena (AP)
If there is an Achilles’ heel in casino security, it appears to be—perhaps not surprisingly—the loading dock. Such is the opinion of security professional Frank Santamorena, president of Security Experts, Consulting & Design, LLC. In his 25 years on the job, Santamorena has managed and designed safety and security measures for federal, state and local governments, Fortune 500 companies, entertainment and sporting venues, stadiums, hospitality, health care, educational facilities and pharmaceutical firms. More recently, he was the principal at Ducibella Venter & Santore Security Consulting & Engineering, responsible for the business development activities of the firm.
Santamorena, who was the security expert and advisor on the Discovery Channel series It Takes a Thief, has found it surprisingly easy to access many buildings, including casinos, through their loading dock or freight areas. “I think that addressing vehicle scheduling and vehicle security is really going to change the way many security directors secure their loading docks,” he said. “There has been an awareness of the problem, but nobody has really had a good solution.”
Indeed, Santamorena has found, the security industry has barely scratched the surface of truly securing buildings by leaving out the most dangerous possibility: truck bombs. “Establishing a trusted vehicle and vendor program protects people and property from some of the most damaging of threats: truck bombs, theft and uninsured vendors,” he said. “Generally, when it comes to analyzing security concerns, vehicles pose the greatest potential risk. Managing vehicles and controlling their access is an essential component to a safe workplace.”
A trusted vehicle program, Santamorena said, answers some important questions for every guard at a loading or freight dock: Who owns the truck? Who is in the truck? What is supposed to be in the truck? Where is the truck going? Where did it come from? How long should it be here? When should it be leaving? He estimated that with the right software, such as that offered by Shortpath, a vehicle can be identified and processed in less than 30 seconds. And with the addition of a license-plate reader, that time can be reduced to 10 seconds. His suggestion to security directors?
“Do your research on loading-dock systems, vehicle security and vendor management,” Santamorena said. “It’s a growing segment in the industry and provides all integrators a tremendous opportunity to extend their services.”