Sydney's Star City Casino has launched a security and surveillance blitz to crack down on violence, stealing, cheats, mugs and all round undesirables not wanted at the casino, as they prepare for relaunch in the coming year.
Media Man and Gambling911 investigate, as Star City goes to war on the ugly side of the casino business, while competing for VIP high rollers with Crown Casino in Melbourne.
We can state that without a shadow of a doubt, security has been beefed up at Star City. This was noticeable upon our attendance to the iGaming Business Down Under event last month. More than just the normal eyes in the sky, there were musclemen in security uniforms a plenty and one got the feeling their were a few undercover officers also lurking. Maybe our film crew helped bring them out of the woodwork.
Star City and Crown Casino for that matter, are well award of the 'Underbelly' X factor, having been frequented by bikies previously, with the odd police chase ending up in the car park, in addition to the well documented reports from Gambling911 and the like on the increase of casino and poker tournament heists across the global.
With Australia's known as being home to some of the world's most passionate gamblers, both traditionally and online, casino security has good reason to be cautious.
Star City will increase security camera numbers by at least 50% by the conclusion of 2011, mainly targeting cheating and fraud on table games like blackjack. Australian readers, you've been warned! You might want to leave your mobile phone card counting devices at home, and guns, knives and other weapons are not welcome on site either.
We've learned Star City approximately 1200 video cameras covering the main gaming floor, high rollers room, other public areas and the building's perimeter. This is up 20% on camera numbers a decade ago. The last two years saw most of the increase occur.
Star City aims to expand its video camera numbers to 1800 after a ground breaking $640 million overhaul next year as it valiant attempts to revamp its image as a "glorified RSL club" aka "Pyrmont Workers Club".
Figures obtained by Gambling911 and Media Man show the rate of gaming-related theft, involving chips or slot credits, and cheating detected by the casino, has doubled since last year, basically in line with the collapse of the world's financial markets we note.
There have been 446 reported incidents of thefts and cheating since the start of 2009, or about 30 a month! That's one per day folks, good or bad odds, depending upon how you look at it, but it means that if you were a regular at the casino its likely something would happen to you, someone you know, or you would been nearby to an incident sooner or later.
Two years ago in the month of May one of the models on the books of our friends at AutoBabes was shot by her ex boyfriend on Star City Casino premises. The Daily Telegraph headline screamed 'First Pictures Of Shot Casino Model' (Holly Graham).
Previous crime figures released by the NSW Casino Control Authority showed 177 incidents of theft, fraud and cheating during the year to June last year, or about 15 a month.
"We don't believe there's been a rise in crime. There has been an increase in the number of criminals apprehended," a spokesman said.
Impressively, all of the incidents of gaming-related theft and cheating since January last year had been identified by closed circuit cameras in the casino.
Offences included attempted use of stolen or fake casino chips, or marked cards. The number of patrons (mugs) banned for "disorderly conduct" almost doubled to 151 in the 2008-09 year.
In one wild battle royal like brawl last year involving a bikie group, chairs were smashed and glasses hurled before it spread outside onto the street and surrounds. We don't believe they were (officially) auditioning for 'Underbelly' but Network Nine got wind, and bikies continue to play an important role in storylines, both in Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast based episodes.
No 2010 figures for this year at time of publication, but the spokesman advise the casino aims to massively overhaul its reputation for late-night incidents, pointing out it made good business sense. It stands to reason if a patron saw or heard about too many incidents, they would stay away.
"If people feel safe, they're more likely to come to Star City," he said.
Star City Casino chiefs believe a stigma has developed about going to the casino.
Media Man and Gambling911 believe that James Packer's Crown Casino in Melbourne has a more elite, somewhat less violent patronage, however they have not exactly remained incident free over the years either. Earlier this year Crown gave the word that they will be implementing plastic handcuffs, and a number of high profile football players have been ejected from the casino in the past few months. We're looking forward to the Logies, Australia's entertainment "night of nights", broadcast from Crown in just a few short weeks. Rumors that Kym Illman's 'Money Girl' Jac Bowie's burlesque troupe and Grant Galea, Dean Martin tribute artist, may show. Bert Newton, iconic Australian TV presenter and comedian, will host The Logies.
Not to be left off the hook, Packer's Burswood Entertainment Complex (read Casino), in Western Australia, has earned itself quite a rowdy reputation over the past number of years, however most assuredly security was beefed up, and crime on premises is down.
Crown's Billionaire Inc, management and staff suggested a massive crackdown on crims and other undesirables, and earlier this year the famed 'plastic handcuff' policy was unleashed, to mixed public and media commentary.
It's understood that the Packer casino security beef up and premises revamps, are providing thousands of jobs, some of which are been keenly taken up by suitable qualified and trained up Indigenous Australians, as part of the the well received GenerationOne campaign and initiative.
We think that there's no doubt Australian land based casinos are newsworthy, and we see a welcome trend of late in news reports where the positives are outdrawing the negatives when it comes to Aussie casino headlines. Yep, more Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise, Logies, Bert Newton's, Dita Von Teese, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Sly Stallone, Barrack Obama, Pam Anderson, Paris Hilton, Carmen Electra, KISS, Chicago, AC/DC, Elton John, UFC, WWE and the like, and less of mugs, knives, shootouts and handcuffs.
Readers, if its all too much for you, you can just stay at home or hit the internet cafe and enjoy 100s of games from our friends at PartyGaming, Virgin, Captain Cooks Casino, PKR and the like. Crown Casino and Star City continue to revamp their websites, (but you won't find online Cleopatra, Hitman, Underbelly, Tomb Raider or Sinatra there), not yet anyway, but a birdie tells us Party and NextGen Gaming have some interest to produce a Kerry Packer, Ned Kelly and Underbelly slot game, but that's a wait and see situation. Betfair, half owned by Packer, is also keen to soon provide online poker and online casino offerings to Aussies, adding to their sports betting portfolio.
Punters, good betting, and promise to behave yourself if you decide to brave a visit to Star City, Crown Casino or Burswood. "Big Brother" is watching!
* Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911
* Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. Gaming is just one of a bakers dozen of industry verticals covered. Their gaming and casino news arm is Casino News Media
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