Thursday, December 22, 2016

New MGM resort, bomb-sniffing dogs and thousands of cameras look for trouble

Prince George County MD Dec 22 2016 Across the length of five city blocks on the banks of the Potomac River, bomb-sniffing dogs pad through crowds with their handlers.
Uniformed security scan for signs of trouble. And more than 2,300 surveillance cameras, mounted on high, swivel and zoom, capturing around the clock the movements of the world below.
The scene may suggest the posture of a protected government facility or a heavily guarded bank, but it is only a glimpse of the casino security operation at the MGM National Harbor.
While the $1.4 billion venue has been touted as a spot where revelers can drop $300 on a pair of shoes by Sarah Jessica Parker after striking it big at poker, the luxury gaming venue and entertainment resort also has a security and surveillance force that rivals some small cities.
“We’re sparing no expense when it comes to public safety,” said Mark Moore, executive director of security of an operation that has to balance protecting the assets of the house with keeping safe the gamblers and others visiting the huge complex.
During the casino’s opening weekend earlier this month, more than 108,000 people walked through the doors at the site at National Harbor, which has its own special homeland-security needs as a venue that sits so close to the nation’s capital. Part of the MGM venue’s security force includes a canine unit, with three bomb-sniffing dogs and three handlers. The canine team is the first MGM has deployed on a casino property outside of Las Vegas.
“We’re under 20 minutes from the White House,” Moore said, explaining the deployment.
To keep tabs on the large amounts of money that move through the casino (casino officials would not disclose how much), the MGM surveillance operation monitors nearly every square inch of the property.
In a room behind beige double doors, past some trash cans and down a freight elevator, nearly 50 screens show dozens of views throughout the venue.
“This is our baby,” said Michael Ruggiano, director of surveillance. “The monitor room.”
Twenty big-screen televisions lining the front wall show everything from spinning roulette wheels, dealers flicking out hands of blackjack and employees in a gray, vault-like room counting casino chips. The cameras can zoom in so tight that they capture the amount of money people have in their hands or show clearly faces on visitors standing 20 feet below and more than 100 yards away.
Ruggiano said surveillance work is about “protecting the integrity of the game.”
Staff in the monitor room are looking for warning signs of deceit — someone putting their hands over bets or palming cards. But they are not only noticing cheats.
In the early weeks of the casino’s opening, a person playing blackjack had almost walked away from nearly a grand in winnings.
The player wound up with a hand of 20 and the dealer had 19, but the dealer took in the player’s bet when the person should have been paid out on their $400 wager.
Someone in the security room noticed and alerted the table to the mistake. They rewound the recording to confirm the error, eventually paying the player $800 for a winning hand.
Outside the surveillance room, the MGM keeps a visible security force with a combination of armed special police, uniformed security and local law enforcement.
Security staff do everything from enforcing the dress code (no bathing suits, baggy clothes or attire emanating “offensive odors”) to watching for fraudsters looking to scam dealers or players.
MGM is still hiring officers to fill out a security staff that will have more than 250 officers by the end of the month. The company has also been working closely with Prince George’s County police and fire departments, which have officers and fire personnel embedded on location.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Henry P. Stawinski III said while the department is used to handling high-profile events such as National Football League games and security for the presidential motorcade when it travels from Joint Base Andrews, the casino does present some unique law enforcement challenges.

“We’re providing an additional presence and support there at the beginning because this is a new venture and an entirely new community,” Stawinski said. “Gaming is a different enterprise than we’ve had before, and it’s a lot of money.”
Washington Post 

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