Casino-security companies hit jackpot in Asia
ASIA'S new mega-casinos are driving sales and innovation in advanced surveillance technology, from chips with built-in radio transmitters to high-definition, multi-lens, digital cameras that can scan huge gaming floors and catch the deftest sleight of hand.
Security-solution providers are among those reaping the benefits of Asia's casino building boom, including German-Australian joint venture Dallmeier International, California-based Pelco, a unit of Schneider Electric PA, and Samsung Techwin, about 25 per-cent-owned by Samsung Electronics.
Tens of thousands of security cameras, including some of the most advanced commercially available, have been installed in the southern Chinese territory of Macau alone in the past five years, and many thousands more are on order for the multi-billion-dollar hotel-casino resorts still in the pipeline.
"It's big business. The camera market here has started to get very big...It's probably the most demanding environment for a video-surveillance system anywhere in the world," said Mr Craig Graham, Dallmeier International general manager for Asia.
"Some of these guys (casino operators) have 700 tables and up to 1,000 slot machines, all of which have to be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
There are about 100,000 cameras installed in Macau's casinos, according to industry estimates, with room potentially for another 50,000 over the next five years. Companies declined to say how much the industry is worth.
Mr Bob Ruggles, Pelco's Asia-Pacific business-development manager based in Macau, said Asian demand had "allowed us to push our products to the limit" of innovation.
In contrast, he said casinos in Las Vegas had been slow to adapt to advances in digital technology, and some were still using VCR tape, in part because of the costs associated with replacing old analogue systems.
"No one (in Macau) uses analogue anymore. Those days are gone," he said.
The more money that flows through Asia's casinos, the more determined the cheats become - probing for signs of weakness and vulnerability, and sometimes all it takes for them is some off-the-shelf gadgetry or inside help.
"Thieves have become more sophisticated," said Mr Joe Pisano, chief executive of Jade Entertainment and Gaming Technologies, a Manila-based provider of gaming technologies. Even so, he said new security measures were making life tougher for the cheats.
"Now, with everything being electronic, there is probably a lot less (fraud) than 20 years ago, when you could have used a metal bar and a light to get coins to drop out of the slot machine," Mr Pisano said.