What Exactly Does Casino Surveillance Do?

Casino Sign, Surveillance Camera
Casino surveillance is one of the most mysterious parts of the gambling world. We all know that surveillance exists in casinos, but what exactly do they do?

You’ve likely seen movies or TV shows that depict casino surveillance as desk jockeys who watch computer monitors all day. You might be surprised to know, though, that their duties extend beyond just looking at monitors.

If you’re interested in learning exactly what surveillance does, then keep reading as I discuss their daily tasks and what it takes to land one of these jobs.

Duties of Casino Surveillance

As mentioned before, casino surveillance does more than just watch computer monitors. Their job requires multiple skills, including everything from catching cheaters to writing reports on notable incidents.

Monitor the Casino Floor

The chief duty of a casino gaming surveillance officer is to monitor the gambling floor. They use audio and video equipment to watch gamblers and employees.

Their big focus is on ensuring that gamblers play fairly and according to house rules.

However, they also need to pay mild attention to dealers, given that croupiers are occasionally corrupt.

Watch for Advantage Players

Casinos have the right to refuse service to advantage gamblers, who are players that hold an edge over the house in one or more games. Blackjack card counters are the best-known examples of advantage players.

Any good pro gambler will take steps to mask their skills. After all, casinos will escort advantage players out of their establishments and possibly ban them, too.

That said, surveillance becomes a huge part of catching skilled gamblers. This crew is trained to look for signs of pro gambling and alert the floor if necessary.

Watch for Potential Cheaters

Unlike advantage play, cheating in casino games is flat-out illegal. Casinos have the right to detain crooked players until law enforcement arrives.

Casino Roulette Wheel, Busted Red Logo

Common types of cheating include card marking, concealing cards, dice sliding (craps), chip dumping (poker), and using electronic devices in roulette. The best cheaters are adept at hiding whatever technique they’re using to make profits.

Surveillance provides a big helping hand in identifying potential cheaters. Much like with advantage gambling, surveillance is trained on the different cheating tactics that players use.

Work With Law Enforcement if Cheating Is Uncovered

Law enforcement will surely be involved if a player is caught using illegal means to beat the casino. Of course, the justice system can’t just prosecute players based on the casino’s word alone.

Instead, a gambling establishment has to provide proof that a player was cheating. Surveillance, thanks to their video evidence, can help successfully prosecute cheating gamblers.

Provide Extra Security for the Cashier’s Cage

The floor isn’t the only part of the casino that needs monitoring. Other sections of these establishments also need help from the “eye in the sky.”

The cashier’s cage especially must be monitored. After all, cages at various casinos have been robbed in the past.

Good surveillance footage can identify perpetrators and help police arrest them later.

Write Reports on Notable Incidents

Manning cameras and monitoring various areas of the casino are big parts of surveillance. However, these officers need to do more than just watch video monitors.

They also have to fill out reports when notable incidents happen. These reports can be based on a cheater, advantage gambler, crooked employee, or other matters.

Escort Unruly Gamblers Off the Floor

You might think of casino security as just being burly guys in suits who wrestle away problem gamblers. However, surveillance may also be called upon to help escort such gamblers off the floor as well.

Part of this duty depends upon the size of the casino. A major Las Vegas resort like the Bellagio may have special security whose job is to deal with unruly gamblers.

At smaller casinos, though, surveillance might provide backup and strength in numbers to more easily detain problem players.

How Much Does Casino Surveillance Get Paid?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines casino surveillance as gaming investigators or gaming surveillance officers.

A look at either job title reveals that a casino surveillance worker makes around $33,000 per year on average. This works out to $15.97 per hour over the course of a 40-hour week.

Those in the highest 10% of this field earn a median salary of $48,600. Those in the lowest 10% collect $21,000 on average.

Security Camera Under Neon Lights, Money

One reason for the wide discrepancy in salaries is the type of employer. Local governments pay casino surveillance an average of $33,350. Private gambling companies offer $30,870 and travel accommodation employers pay $35,430.

Location is another key factor in surveillance officers’ salaries. Those working in Connecticut and Indiana earn an average of $46,080 and $43,290, respectively.

Employees in South Dakota and West Virginia only receive $26,320 and $26,540 on average, respectively. That said, casino surveillance workers can benefit by relocating to more lucrative markets with bigger casinos.

What Does It Take to Become a Surveillance Officer?

You might think that surveillance officers need an extensive tech background. After all, they must use electronic equipment and be experts at switching camera views.

The reality, though, is that they don’t need elite education. Schooling requirements don’t usually extend beyond a high school diploma or even GED.

However, prospective surveillance officers must pass a thorough criminal background check. Casinos can’t trust just anybody to monitor their floors.

Such workers usually have to obtain licensing as well before they’re eligible to become surveillance officers. This licensing isn’t hard to acquire in most states.

Surveillance employees can further their careers by going through additional programs and classes. Such courses are available through both universities and organizations.

Challenges That Gaming Investigators Deal With

One problem with trying to become a surveillance officer is the limited number of opportunities.

At one point, this field was booming due to all of the casino growth throughout the US. But the number of new casinos has stagnated in recent years.

Job growth for gambling surveillance was just 9% over the past decade. Compare this to the average growth rate of 14% for all job fields across America.

Casino Slot Machines, Security Guard

Another challenge is the moderate to low salary. These officers need quite a bit of training to carry out their duties.

However, they don’t earn any more than the average factory worker. This problem is particularly highlighted in rural states like West Virginia and South Dakota, where surveillance earns meager salaries.

But there’s some hope for this field. More states are expected to legalize casino gambling in the future.

Such expansion will no doubt lead to more casinos. Likewise, the demand and salaries for surveillance employees could grow in this event.

Conclusion

Casino surveillance is stereotyped as having one duty—to watch video monitors. But as you can see, their job description goes beyond just manning cameras.

They also write reports, provide extra physical security, and work with law enforcement when necessary. Of course, their primary responsibility remains viewing monitors to catch advantage gamblers, cheaters, and crooked dealers.

The eye in the sky serves as a big deterrent for cheating the casino or just trying to gain an edge on them. Potential advantage gamblers and cheaters will think twice before trying to profit off casinos.

Unfortunately, surveillance is a thankless and often underpaid job. The average officer only makes around $33,000 per year.

This is an okay salary that can help a single person or family with two working parents to get by. However, it’s hardly going to make anybody rich.

Job growth has been slow for gambling surveillance over the past decade, too. This profession has grown at a rate that’s 5% slower compared to the average job field.

Much of the problem is due to casino saturation. States that already have gambling establishments feature more than enough casinos relative to their population.

But surveillance employees can look forward to potential growth in the future. After all, a number of states have yet to legalize casino gambling.

That said, this profession could be more lucrative in future years, especially if demand for employees becomes higher.