Candid Cameras at Mohegan Sun

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 09-06-2006

The thief walked into the jewelry store at Mohegan Sun and asked to see an item in a display case, then reached across the counter to snatch a chain while the clerk bent down to help him. He quickly disappeared into the crowd milling around the concourse area of the sprawling casino, made it to his car without incident, and drove home.

The cops were waiting for him when he got there.

Security cameras in the shop had captured the man in action, and staffers were able to retrace his route by checking footage gathered by other cameras along his trail. There wasn't much chance of the guy slipping out of frame, given the network of 3,000 digital cameras covering Mohegan Sun's public areas, including the gaming floor, lobbies and elevators. "We can pinpoint your location and recreate every bit of your stay here," says Joe Lavin, executive director of public safety for the Mohegan Tribe.

The perp's big mistake: using his Player's Club membership card when he played the slots earlier that evening. Once the security officers saw those images, it was a simple matter of calling up the gaming records and identifying the malefactor.

Beyond basic security, Mohegan's surveillance network is used to help keep players and dealers honest. Monitors watch to detect card-counting schemes and even high-tech devices used to cheat the house. "We are able to zoom down to see the hands on your watch," says Dave Todd, Mohegan Sun's vice president of security and surveillance.

And life at Mohegan Sun is only a taste of what's to come at corporate campuses and public spaces everywhere. Acceptance of this sort of active security is growing as a more generalized "security culture" becomes part of everyday life, says Ted DeZabala of Deloitte & Touche's enterprise risk services group. "The idea of monitoring people's behaviors is getting more common," he says, pointing to the security cameras that are now commonplace in some urban centers, and the increased watchfulness of a post-Sept. 11 society. At the same time, workers have grown used to the idea that their e-mail may be screened for inappropriate content and business-critical data.

It takes a lot of patience and a practiced eye to work the surveillance beat. Operators at Mohegan Sun go through more intensive training than dealers—in part because they must learn every aspect of the dealer's art in order to understand what they are watching. "It takes two years to make a good surveillance person," says Lavin.

There is also training on ethics and privacy issues. "The integrity of the operators is very important," says Todd. "You can't be using the cameras to look down a woman's top. And they have to understand that what happens in the room stays in the room. Unless it's illegal."

Be sure to read the main story: Case Study: Mohegan Sun and the Future of Data Security.