By Ben Simmoneau
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (CBS) – There are a lot of casinos in our area now, and when you visit one you know you’re being watched. But you may not realize how closely you’re being watched. With hundreds of high-tech cameras, security now can see nearly every move you make – from an elevator, to a hallway, to the parking garage, even the street outside, they are watching.
Eyewitness News got a rare look at the scope of casino surveillance thanks to the folks at the new Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia. Officials there took us inside their surveillance command center where the resort’s 500 cameras are monitored.
“We can get very creative about cameras,” said Jesse Silva, Valley Forge’s director of surveillance. “With digital technology creeping into the surveillance field, it gives us abilities that are unbelievable.”
High-definition cameras mounted dozens of yards away in the ceiling can count chips and read serial numbers on dollar bills, zooming in with 30 times magnification. The surveillance agents working the joysticks can keep a close eye on people in the casino lobby from half-way across the casino floor. And every image captured around the clock here will be digitally stored for at least 30 days.
But all of that might soon seem quaint.
“What the cameras do now is they think,” said Scott Black at The Spy Shop in Ardmore. He keeps track of the latest technology for customers. He says one of the biggest advancements in recent years is something called video analytics. That’s where cameras can be programmed to do all sorts of things – including track and recognize people.
“Once the parameters and the metrics of somebody’s face is put into the system, the cameras and the recorders can look for those metrics and alert security that an individual is on site,” Black explained.
That makes Joe Dolpies’ job easier – and harder. He teaches casino surveillance at Northampton Community College. It means his students have to learn more about surveillance equipment, but new technology could make their jobs easier over the long term.
“In the corporate age, this is such an advance,” he said. “It takes such pressure off the surveillance agent because it is the lifeblood of the casino to protect the integrity of the floor.”
So why are casinos likely the most closely watched place you’ll ever be? Simple. They are sprawling properties open 24 hours a day with large crowds of people.
And the house advantage only works when lots of people gamble.
“We want them to feel absolutely safe when they come here,” said Gilbert Morrissey, head of Valley Forge’s security. “So it’s important for us to watch everything that happens here.”