Tuesday, January 15, 2008

World Game Protection Conference

Is a Big disappointment? Not worth the money? Richard Marcus’s opinion

In 2007 I was the keynote speaker at the second annual World Game Protection Conference in Las Vegas. This conference was established by Willy Allison, an ex-surveillance room employee who got the idea to bring an assorted band of speakers from around (or on the fringes of) the casino game protection and training industry to conduct a two-day conference in order to teach industry people how to protect their casinos from cheaters and other scams that afflict their coffers. When I first received Mr. Allison’s invitation to be the keynote speaker I was excited by the opportunity. And apparently so were many others; it would be the first time in gaming history that a true top-of-the-line casino cheater gave a public demonstration of how he cheated casinos for decades using well-coordinated cheating moves and advanced psychological techniques to completely outwit casinos’ surveillance systems. Then after my session on casino table games cheating, I was the principal member of a three-person panel that spoke about poker cheating, the value of electronic poker tables to inhibit poker cheating and various other measures concerning the integrity of the poker world.

Overall, my appearance at the 2007 World Game Protection Conference was so well received that it made the front page of the business section of the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper, publicity that served Mr. Allison quite well for this year’s World Game Protection Conference in February.

But what is the reality of the WGPC, which Mr. Allison promotes nonstop at every available opportunity, especially at the G2E in Las Vegas, Casino Enterprise Management Magazine’s Casinofest series and the Gaming Operations Summit in Las Vegas? Is it worth the $1,000 plus pricetag per attendee to attend?

At first I thought it was, but upon my arrival at last year’s World Game Protection Conference I got kind of disappointed when seeing who my fellow speakers were following me onto the podium. Not that these people were anything less than intelligent and knowledgeable in their fields, only that I didn’t see what a very large percentage of them had to do with game protection, and in some cases, casinos at all. For instance, one of the speakers was an Israeli counterterrorism agent who actually got up on the podium and showed film clips of Palestinian terrorists training for their Intifada and Jihad. Then if that wasn’t enough, we got to see footage of the carnage, dead bodies, bombed out settlements and the works. Come on, what has this got to with game protection? On second thought, I think bringing in this Israeli, who I would never want to encounter in a dark desert if the guy was in a bad mood, was probably just a filling measure to justify the $1,000 ticket to come to the conference. In fact, I felt that many of the speakers’ presentations were redundant of one another, and the non-stop assault of graphs, charts and other color-coded encapsilations of information and statistics were more boring than informative.

Many people have asked me whether the 2008 World Game Protection Conference is worthy of attending. Would there be anything new from last year? Would it talk specifically about poker cheating? Would it talk about online poker cheating and other forms of online and land-based gambling cheating? Should casino staffs shell out ten grand or more to send groups of employees to the conference? Unfortunately, I have to reply no, it is not worth it. For starters, let’s take a look at who this year’s keynote speaker is: none other than Edward O. Thorp, author of the revolutionary card-counting book “Beat the Dealer.” True, Mr. Thorp’s book was revolutionary but the card-counting revolution is long over. If a keynote speaker is going to speak about card counting, a method of play not only as aged as myself but also one that really is of no threat to casinos, then the conference has an inherent problem. With Ken Uston, the MIT Team and countless others, casinos already know how to game-protect themselves from card counters, so, although Mr. Thorp’s platform might be interesting and historical, it no longer has any bearing on the game protection industry.

Back in 2006, Mr. Allison’s keynote speaker was none other than Steve Forte, once considered an expert in game protection whose credentials, credibility and motives were certainly put into question last year when he was busted for running a major high-tech cheating scam at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, which certainly doesn’t shed any complimentary light on the World Game Protection Conference.

This year’s second speaker on the roster is David Callahan, author of the 2004 book The Cheating Culture: Why more Americans are doing wrong to get ahead. I read that book and it has about as much to do with game protection as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens do with Ping Pong. It’s about the greed and conniving behind the Enron and Worldcom scandals and others that are more relevant to Wall Street than the Las Vegas Strip, so again, it appears to me that Callahan is another interesting person but not of much use at a game protection conference. In short, I question the overall relevance of many of Mr. Allison’s speakers.

Obviously you can see that my opinion of these specialized game protection conferences has gone sharply downhill since I participated in one. My advice to casino managers and surveillance directors is that if you want to get some good education about game protection, while saving considerable money in travelling, lodging and conference tickets, bring someone to your casino who really can cut right to the chase and teach your staffs how to stop cheaters, swindlers, inside scams and just about anything else in operations that cuts into your bottom line.

World Game Protection Conference: Big disappointment