As I write this blog, I’m sitting 27 storeys above the Las Vegas Strip, looking down on the concrete jungle that makes up this surreal place. From my window, I can see several of the major casino hotels; several smaller ones hide in the depths. Around me are six out of ten of the world’s largest hotels, with a little under 33,000 rooms between them.
For the majority who turn up here, the idea is a little bit of fun at the tables, leaving a little poorer than when they arrived, but with a feeling that it was all worth it. What they don’t see is the massive amount of technology underpinning Las Vegas.
The hospitality market has long been a technology hot spot — taking hotel bookings, ensuring that guests are kept happy, ensuring that the hotel runs to a semblance of order requires a technology platform that has spawned countless vendors in the space.
Add a casino into the mix alongside the hotel, and everything gets incredibly more complex.
If you have ever been in a casino, you may have noticed the dome cameras dotted around the ceilings. These are planned to ensure that as much of the casino floor as possible is covered, and it used to be the case that the live analogue video streams were monitored just by people watching out for things out of the ordinary. Things have moved on; alongside government security forces, it is in the casino trade where you will find some of the most advanced technology available.
These video streams have been brought into the digital era and are being monitored automatically — facial and other pattern recognition systems are in place to be able to monitor for to rapidly monitor for anomalies, raising events for humans in the casino’s security staff to then concentrate on. Incoming data from the gaming tables and slot machines are fed as streams to high power compute clusters that track for possible fraud. Details of guests that have been warned away from a casino are shared along the Strip so that those who are not welcome in one casino are easily identifiable at the other casinos.
This cannot be done on the cheap — behind the kitsch façade of the casino floor lie large data centers and complex networks on which the casino has to depend to ensure that they can fully track what is going on.
However, that Vegas has hit a sticky patch. The guests have fallen away; those that do come don’t spend as much as they did. Hotels on the Strip lie with empty rooms, new builds are frozen. Building a new casino/hotel on the Strip comes in at more than $5b — the money has to come from somewhere. Without the money coming in, Las Vegas is putting on a good act — but it has deep problems.
These problems will feed on to the technology capabilities — a lack of money will hamper adoption of newer technologies. The cheats are progressing and have better technology themselves; the external technology blackhats would love to break the casinos’ systems. In such an internecine battle, money is required to keep systems at a level that can at least put up a good fight.
OK — it is not like the Oceans films, where a suitcase laptop computer can be used to cause mayhem in a casino by taking over the complete platform, allowing the baddies to waltz off with millions, but Las Vegas is running the risk that it will not be able to claim to be one of the most secure environments on the planet any more. Personally identifiable information could be increasingly at risk; financial details may be compromised.
Las Vegas is not quite running on empty, but it needs to see the good times roll again. If not, then against the old saying, what is left in Vegas by the guests may not stay in Vegas.