Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports, published a story about our return this morning…

The World Game Protection Conference hosted by husband-and-wife team Willy and Jo Allison returns to Las Vegas in February with a focus on the top threats, vulnerabilities and operational risks to casinos.

The three-day conference held Feb. 15th through the 17th at the Tropicana Las Vegas has secured prominent speakers that include ex-mob boss Michael Franzese who will talk about fixing games. Financial crimes author Jeffrey Robinson will discuss money laundering. There’s Hall of Fame blackjack player Arnold Synder talking about advantage play and how to beat Las Vegas casinos.

Former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpourus will also participate in the conference emceed by Buddy Frank, a slot consultant and CDC Gaming Reports contributor.

This year’s conference has a new format with CORE Training for surveillance development for casino employees with eight classes of three hours each on Feb. 15th. Those sessions deal with table game protection, electronic game protection, surveillance management, casino crime, data analytics, risk management, investigating game losses, and video surveillance 101.

The traditional portion of the conference starts Feb. 16th.

The conference brings attendees and speakers from across the globe starting in 2006 and has been held every year through 2019 until COVID-19 cancelled the March 2020 conference less than two weeks before it happened. With the pandemic still raging and travel curtailed, the 2021 conference wasn’t held either.

“We’re nervously excited,” Willy Allison said. “We’re jumping out of our skins waiting to get back. As the vaccination rates go up, it makes us more comfortable with putting on a show. I think there’s going to be renewed optimism in the new year with the governments around the world starting to loosen up their restrictions.”

The first day of the general session on Feb. 16th will focus on awareness of threats, Allison said. That day will cover money laundering, human trafficking, sports betting, cyber threats, and gaming threats.

On the final day, the conference will deal with solutions and ways to deal with challenges. That includes technology that covers such areas as facial recognition and microphones on tables.

The conference includes an expo that brings together conference delegates and the leading manufacturers of casino game protection, surveillance and security products.

“We have expanded the scope at the conference to all operational threats,” Willy Allison said. “We’re called the Game Protection Conference. If I could change it, I’d call it the Operational Risk Conference because we’re dealing with cyber attacks and money laundering is huge right now. There’s some big investigations around the world that could lead to revocation of licenses. Everybody during COVID realized surveillance has the capability to be a lot more than it has been. That’s what our show is. We’re increasing our scope.”

New this year will be a two-hour interactive session called “What’s Everybody Doing,” Allison said.

“That’s the question I get the most,” Willy Allison said. “That’s where COVID comes in. We’re going to discuss what policies and measures we introduced during COVID that we should think about keeping. Casinos are having their most profitable six-month period ever, and that’s because of some of the things they did in COVID. For example, spacing people on tables instead of cramming people on a blackjack table. It speeds up the game. We’re going to have a look at all the things we do on the gaming floor and question what we should keep in 2022.”

Jo Allison said the conference goal is for casino employees to take back lessons to be implemented by their properties.

“If they can get one thing from the conference to take back, that’s golden,” Jo Allison said. “We’re going to have some great speakers who people are going to be excited to listen to.”

Willy Allison said in the past they focused more on the internal theft, cheating, and advantage play but during the COVID era cheating and stealing appears to have decreased based on what surveillance people are saying. Whether it has decreased or surveillance staff has missed some because of their focus on COVID protocols remains to be seen, Willy Allison said.

“Contact tracing was taking surveillance time away,” Willy Allison said. “You have a dealer that has COVID. Now they have to backtrack several days and see everyone who they associated with in the room. That’s how the world has changed.”

Allison said any decrease in catching cheaters might be the result of travel restrictions and criminals not wanting to catch COVID rather than a shift in workload from surveillance. In many places, customers had to go through access control.

“Cheats and advantage players don’t like that,” Allison said. “They like to be wandering with the rest of the humans. But it was going down before COVID.”

Willy Allison said one issue during COVID is there have been reports of problems with known card counters because masks hide the identity of people who aren’t welcome at the casinos.

In a survey of surveillance professionals done by the International Association of Certified Surveillance Professionals internal theft was considered the top threat at 94%. That was followed by cheating at 60%; advantage play at 45%; civil unrest at 33%; cyber threats at 31%; and legal issues at 27%.

The show will have a session and competition talking about the top 20 casino scams of the century.

Willy Allison is the managing director of the conference who got his start in the industry 35 years ago as a surveillance operator in Australia. Kentucky native Jo Allison, a coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky, is the chief organizing officer of the conference.

“We’re unique because we’re a mom-and-pop, husband and wife team that’s been running a well-respected gaming industry conference for 15 years,” Willy Allison said. “We’re still standing.”