Charles Guenther keeps his eye on the money at Trump Marina Casino
Charles Guenther keeps his eye on the money at Trump Marina Casino

Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Kate Henry

At the Trump Marina Casino, Atlantic City, N.J., director of surveillance Charles Guenther watches all the money, and there is a lot of it. Using the latest in surveillance and biometric technology, and by training his staff in all aspects of casino gaming, Guenther has established a surveillance operation that is "one of the most sophisticated in the country," according to Guenther.

TECHNOLOGY SPARKS A SURVEILLANCE REVOLUTION Trump Marina Casino comprises 76,400 square feet, 86 table games and 2,120 slot machines - a medium-sized casino in Atlantic City, according to Guenther. "My responsibility is to maintain the integrity of the casino against any type of internal or external fraud, theft or cheating activity by employees or patrons. We not only watch, but also videotape, every single game 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he explains. "All our table games, slot zones and money selling or receiving areas have several cameras trained on them and recording, whether that area is open or closed."

This surveillance saturation is backed up and recorded by 300 VCRs in the surveillance monitoring room. Guenther says that number far exceeds the 50 to 100 VCRs you might find in a comparably sized casino in Las Vegas.

The best change in casino surveillance, according to Guenther, has been camera technology. "In the early '80s, surveillance cameras were very big - half the size of a large desk. Our cameras today are five inches around, with 140x zoom and 360-degree pan-and-tilt capability," he describes.

"The next best change has been the computer," he says. "We can track all the games and slots, knowing which ones are winning and losing. We also know what customers are playing where."

Using a biometric facial recognition system, Guenther's team scans the crowds for known casino cheaters. "This software has replaced the use of books upon books of cheaters and suspicious people on our 'exclusion' list," says Guenther. "What used to take 15 minutes to hours, we can now do in seconds." Guenther maintains a computer database of thousands of individuals known for illegal casino activity. "Through eye contact and facial recognition, the computer can scan 10,000 pictures in a matter of seconds, and let us know if it is a hit."

EMPOWERING STAFF Guenther says his operation is unique in the high level of training his staff receives. He believes in teaching everything he has learned in his 19 years of casino surveillance. "My operation is only as good as my least experienced employee," he says. "I like to keep it simple, and if it does not work, change it. People always tell me, 'You do love change, Charlie!' Embracing change is critical to this job."

A typical security officer has to know all policies and procedures of the casino floor as well as risk management, first aid and medical procedures, according to Guenther. Surveillance officers, who operate behind the scenes, have to know all policies and procedures governing the games and slots.

Prospective surveillance officers must pass a 10-week surveillance course at a local college, which is followed by continuous on-the-job training. "I look for people who have graduated the class and also have experience dealing casino games or in law enforcement," says Guenther. Once hired, an employee's review time lasts up to a year and is supplemented with monthly training on rules, policy, procedure and cheating moves on all casino games and slots.

Surveillance staff at Trump Marina are also motivated by an incentive program, instituted by Guenther. "We encourage employees to attend additional college courses relating to casino surveillance, and we pay for it. Upon graduation, employees receive a monetary reward in their pay. It betters the employees for themselves, for my department and for our company," he says.

TEAMWORK MAKES IT HAPPEN The surveillance operation at Trump works closely with a separate security department and with local and state law enforcement.

"We work hand in hand with security on access control," says Guenther. "We closely monitor people going into sensitive areas using cameras, while security controls that access using key, card and lock input systems. We monitor all keypads, and holdup, money drawer, and entrance/exit alarms in surveillance. Cameras also watch all elevators and escalators."

In a scenario where a cheater is detected, the chain of teamwork springs into action. "Our first line of defense is our dealers," explains Guenther. "If they see something wrong, they alert the pit boss, who then alerts us."

Staff are trained to watch body motions - the way people walk, talk, look or position themselves and also how players move their money. "Using our computer technology, we monitor the money being played on a game. We notify security to be ready to detain a suspicious person, then notify the state police, which has a division of gaming enforcement that makes the arrest, if warranted," says Guenther.

Like gaming itself, cheating activity at Trump Marina is subject to chance. "Thousands of people cross our casino floor daily, but sometimes, hours can go by without incident; then in the next hour, we will have four arrests," he says. "When you come to work, you have no idea what is going to happen that day. It is similar to police work in that way."

A notable challenge, says Guenther, are groups of professional casino cheats. "There are hundreds of these people who travel around the world, specializing in cheating certain games. We have arrested people from Australia, Africa, Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Spain - as well as from the U.S., of course. Again, our advantage is we tape everything."

The Atlantic City police department is responsible for the hotel and perimeter of Trump Marina. "Casinos in New Jersey are closely controlled by good regulations," says Guenther. "In this business, there is no such thing as being over-regulated."

Guenther looks forward to the technology aspect of his field changing ever more rapidly. "In the '80s, it seemed like once a year something new came out, " he says. "Nowadays, it is more like once a week or month there is something new. I look forward to this next frontier of newer, faster, better."

A former police officer and detective himself, Guenther also holds a masters certification in business efficiency from Rutgers University. He is a licensed dealer in most casino games and regularly attends continuing education courses. Guenther owns a private detective agency, and enjoys spending leisure time in activities that involve his wife and children. He is a devoted coach of football, crew, softball and basketball, and enjoys taking his family deep sea fishing on his two boats.

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