Did you ever wonder what the eye in the sky does? That's the name given to the surveillance operation at casinos (and other businesses these days). Because casinos deal in cash and gambling, they have always been big on protecting their revenue stream.
Years ago casinos came up with what was called the eye-in-the-sky, to keep an eye on their guests, and their own employees. Back then, men worked above the casino floor in the rafters on plywood frames with binoculars to try and catch cheats. Other names were also used for the "eye," such as the peak, sky, and the tower.
These days the eye doesn't even have to be in the sky as long as the cameras are. Surveillance workers string miles and miles of cable to hundreds of cameras and back to the surveillance room, thereby enabling the workers to watch virtually everything that goes on in public areas.Surveillance Manager
The surveillance manager has to have many talents, because they are in charge of much more than just watching the casino. Not only do they have to do budgeting and purchasing for their department, they also have to know the technical things about the job as well.
Lighting can affect the ability of even the best cameras to do an adequate job, so the overall lighting of the casino is important. Certain cameras also have different attributes; some are stationary, some have pan-and-tilt abilities meaning they can mover around to get a better view, and some can also zoom-in on an object.
The manager also has to understand what is important for each casino department to have camera coverage for. Often, that coverage is not "live," just recorded. Other things like the movement of chips from the vault or cage to the tables or the "drop" boxes being retrieved from the table games and slot machines needs to be viewed live. The ability to properly handle workflow and scheduling can be a major attribute for a competent, successful manager.
Managers with little experience may earn as much as $48,000 a year. More experienced managers and those working for large facilities often earn twice that sum.What a Surveillance Officer Does
A surveillance officer, likewise, has to do many jobs. They may be involved in taking calls from all areas of the casino and turning on cameras, and also watching live footage of certain aspects of the daily grind.
Officers, or operators, get calls during the opening of table games like blackjack, roulette and craps. They are also called when slot machines are opened, when jackpots are hit and paid (both in slots and table games departments), for Keno payoffs, poker room issues, fights, and all manner of player disputes.
Floor personnel are required to call the "eye" whenever they change cards on table games, do fills of chips for the games, and when they have other issues like player disputes or issues like drunk or unruly players. Often an officer is juggling several live feeds and also handling phone calls at the same time.
Officers, as well as managers, need to have a good understanding of how each table game is played, how the dealers need to deal, what the payoffs are, and what to look for that might detect cheating. Inexperienced or incompetent officers will cost the casino in the long run, so training is very important.
New officers are likely to make only a bit over minimum wage to start, but good properties offer experienced and newly trained officers the chance to make more money to compensate for their increased abilities. A good operator understands card counting, not just how a counter plays and what to look for, but often team play is involved and a surveillance officer needs to be able to snap to their game to save the casino money.
Also working for the surveillance department are technical workers, sometimes IT personnel, and people that specialize in camera work - the operation, mounting, and the stringing of cable. At larger properties these are full time jobs. At smaller properties or those that already have the infrastructure in place, the job of surveillance officer may encompass all aspects of the department.What the Sky Looks For
While large casinos may have thousands of cameras, every casino is most interested in areas where cash changes hands. Areas monitored constantly are the cashiers cage, fill and credit cage, restaurant and bar cashiers, and ATM and and cashless ticket dispensers.
Beyond those obvious things, surveillance personnel are trained to look for dealer cheating, such as paying losing hands or not taking losers, overpaying bets, and overpaying cash-in and cash-out chip and money transactions. Players are watched for things like switching cards, switching dice, moving bets on games like craps and roulette, capping (adding) winning bets, and pinching (reducing) losing bets.
Due to increased liability issues, officers must also be diligent about watching for potential danger areas such as spills, fallen objects, and other walking or driving hazards. Catching an issue before it becomes dangerous or harmful is a key attribute of an excellent eye in the sky