Focus on eConnect: Casino cameras hold untapped source of customer data, eConnect CEO says

April 19, 2024 8:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
April 19, 2024 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

Casino operators could uncover a treasure trove of information within their surveillance systems, Henry Valentino says.

“With AI and the capabilities of the neural network, camera systems have a whole other set of data,” said Valentino, president and CEO of eConnect, a Las Vegas-based provider of artificial intelligence, data, and video analytics specifically for the gaming industry. For example, a camera system could analyze how much time visitors spend gambling vs. other activities while on property, giving operators a detailed look at what captures people’s attention, he said.

It also could quickly accomplish tasks such as identifying the 10 most valuable players currently on site, even if they’re not gambling at the moment; break down the percentage of first-time and return visitors over the past week; and determine which people came for a concert and stayed to gamble.

In short, the all-seeing casino surveillance system can become a data center itself in addition to being a necessary – and heavily regulated – security presence.

“Over time, you’re going to see more of these capabilities get adopted,” Valentino predicted.

However, casino marketing teams tend to have limited involvement with the surveillance system. That could be the result of regulations, which vary by jurisdiction, or a hesitancy of operators and regulators to grasp the capabilities of surveillance combined with artificial intelligence.

So far, the industry has embraced the “easy wins” of AI-enabled surveillance systems, such as identifying customers who have been banned or self-excluded as they attempt to enter a property, Valentino said. He told of an eConnect client that recently added facial recognition software and reported identifying more advantage players in a month than were identified throughout the previous year.

eConnect also provided facial recognition for the Sphere in Las Vegas, scanning 20,000 or more attendees and comparing them against a database of criminal offenders. Alerting security guards of a match took 3 minutes at first, potentially allowing a person to disappear into the crowd, but that time quickly was reduced to less than 10 seconds after a bit of software optimization, Valentino said.

In addition to the expanded data that AI and facial recognition can supply, Valentino foresees increased convenience for casino customers and employees. He said the second biggest application of facial recognition, after keeping “bad guys” out, is access control with a person’s face. Employees can enter secure areas without constantly having to use a key card; on the customer relations side, facial recognition could be used to speed high-tier players through restaurant lines or to verify the identity of a player who forgot or mislaid their club card. Many slot machines have built-in cameras, so using facial recognition and a customer’s smartphone could provide two-factor identification, he said. The Transportation Security Administration already uses facial recognition for screening passengers at several airports, including Harry Reid in Las Vegas.

The marketing team might want to be alerted to visits by local slot influencers, restaurant reviewers, or celebrities and their retinue. That also would require an internal approval process to prevent someone from adding an undeserving friend to the VIP list or a bothersome neighbor to the banned list, he added.

Because of the capabilities of AI surveillance searches, “you have to think through the ramifications of what happens,” Valentino said. One issue could be a police request to search for a criminal suspect. Some operators might agree to do so without a court order, while others would not want to be seen as an arm of law enforcement.

“Getting to the point of really using all this data that’s coming out is what I would call a secondary wave” for facial recognition, Valentino said. “That’s where I see the future for casinos. They’ve got to consider when to make the investment. It’s not a matter of will they make the investment, (it’s) when, and how they get the ROI.”