Personal Privacy and Casinos

Both the individual player and the blackjack team player are becoming more and more concerned with protecting their respective personal privacies.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution assures us that: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."

While convincing you to think twice before providing your favorite casino with your personal information, it is first necessary to provide a crash-course on how identity theft can affect you. Plus, earlier in the reading I promised to discuss more on this topic.

The average citizen has been brainwashed into automatically turning over a Driver's License whenever asked for a "Photo ID." Even worse, persons requiring a form of "Photo ID" automatically ask the average citizen for a Driver's License.

Are you one of the many who automatically give your Driver's License to anyone who requests it? Congratulations. You've just joined the ranks of the majority of Americans who are routinely giving unknown persons a "License to Steal." Go ahead and call me paranoid, but open your wallet and take a look at all that wonderful information on that little harmless card called a Driver's License.

Your Driver's License has your name, home address, and date of birth. Some states even include your social security number on the face of the license. This one little card provides someone with all the tools necessary to steal your identity.

Casinos and Identity Theft

The following concerns are not limited to casinos, but any business that interfaces with the general public. One should be more concerned when dealing with a casino, as there are not many other businesses where money is tossed around so openly and freely. This, in itself, attracts a certain type of thinking: theft.

You are standing in line, and a clerk asks for your Driver's License. Did you notice the stranger with a larcenous mind standing nearby, and clicking a photo with his camera phone?

What do you know about the clerk to whom you are giving the keys to your privacy? Suppose this person leaves the company and is a disgruntled employee?Did you think about the information accessible to such a person? Is it possible that such an employee may have developed, or will soon develop, a drug dependency and will be looking for ways to make a quick buck? Still want to allow your personal information to be entered into a casino's database?

Casinos are famous for dangling the carrot in front of us. They offer freebies for all levels of players who sign up for a "Players Card." Most commonly, you are given an application card to fill out. In addition to the standard name, address, and phone number request, among other things, they may ask for your date of birth, social security number, anniversary date, and maybe even your favorite sports. It has become the rule rather than the exception in today's environment that in order to obtain a Players Card, one must present a "Photo ID." This requirement varies from casino-to-casino, so let's break down the term "Photo ID" into three common categories:

    1. Any respectable-looking ID card with a name and photo that resembles you.
    2. A "Government-Issued" Photo ID Card.
    3. Your Driver's License.

From this point forward, do yourself a favor and never give your Driver's License to anyone other than a Police Officer.

Category #1, above, gives you as the customer the most flexibility.

As an Advantage Player with a desire to stay anonymous, I would recommend you surrender to the requirement of Category #2 above (thus giving up some valid details) only in the event the place is offering something that really makes it worth your while. One trick that is always worth a try is to have the application card already filled out and to present it along with a Photo ID as per Category #1 before they ask you for their choice of ID.

A Government-Issued Photo ID is a broad enough category. It also gives you more safety than that of strictly a Driver's License. A Passport does not provide your home address or social security number. If forced into a corner, a Passport is preferable to a Driver's License any day.

For those involved with a blackjack team, by providing personal information, you make it easier for the casino to link you together with suspect teammates.

Remember the old saying, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." Think about paying for your own meal before giving your personal information to the casino in return for a comped buffet.

Let's look at all the tools casinos have to gather information on their customers, along with some measures to minimize such intrusions:



The next time you are in a casino, take a survey of the number of visible cameras mounted on the ceiling. You can easily identify these black plastic bubbles. A well-established surveillance and security set-up has cameras mounted in a manner where no blind spots exist. The only places cameras are not permitted by law are in hotel guest rooms and restrooms. A patron must work with the assumption that every move will be filmed and can be maintained on a video tape. The capabilities of these cameras are impressive. In addition to fixed cameras, which are set to film the ongoing activities of a specific area, the pan, tilt, and zoom functions of additional cameras permit the individual to follow a patron throughout the casino and obtain many precise details as a result. One example is where a camera can actually pick up a phone number dialed from one's cell phone. It can also read a number from the LCD screen of a cell phone. Lip readers anyone?

To cut down on the quality of video surveillance here are some countermeasures you, as a patron can apply:

  • Do your advance work and know the locations of the visible cameras.
  • Wear reflective jewelry to distort the quality of the filming.
  • Never look up directly at the cameras.
  • When cashing out chips at the casino cashier cage, subtly look away from the fixed camera. This is where the casino has the best opportunity to get a clear face shot of you. It is your job to make it difficult for them.
  • Try to avoid cell phone usage in the casino. In the event you need to make a phone call, use speed-dial and cover the LCD screen so the number on the screen is not visible to an overhead camera.
  • If speaking on a phone (cell and pay phone) cover your mouth or face a camera-free wall to prevent a lip-reader from reviewing your conversation on video tape.
  • Establish walking paths where you pass a minimum number of cameras.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition systems are computer programs that are supposed to enable the user to create possible matches from a live camera feed, saved camera footage, or a still photograph to that which may be maintained in an existing database. These systems are based on an algorithm, with the "eigenface" being one of the most common. The facial recognition system captures a facial image, blocking such image from its other surroundings. It then converts the captured photograph to a digital image, and measures various points on the face, comparing the results of the two, to arrive at possible matches, which are sorted by a score. Some of the areas compared are the distance between the eyes, head shape, and other facial bone structures. Experts have pointed out flaws in these systems, which reveal they are not very reliable. I personally had the opportunity to toy around with one of these products and found very simple ways even a first-grader can throw the system off. The sellers of such systems boast how the system can get an accurate read even if a subject is wearing eyeglasses. This is not the case. Certain variables need to be present to increase the accuracy of the system. First, the actual angle of the face, as it is captured in a photographic image, is crucial. Take lighting conditions and background glare into consideration, and you have even less accuracy.

Now these products can prove useful in certain situations, and in controlled environments. For example, if you are a company that requires employees to be photographed, you control the environment (angle, lighting, etc.). When applied in this manner, you increase the effectiveness of the facial recognition product. When an individual is required to stop before entering a designated area, you control the environment. Examples are airports, where this product could be of great value in our continued battle against terrorism.

Two of the leading companies who provide the casino industry with facial recognition products are:

296 Concord Road, Third Floor
Billerica, Massachusetts 01821
Phone: (978) 932-2200
E-mail: [email protected]

Their website is:

5600 Rowland Road
Minnetonka, MN 55343
Phone (952) 932-0888
[email protected]

Their website is:



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