Casinos are notoriously one of the most surveilled places you can go, with every inch of the gaming floor and surrounding spaces monitored by a small army of security guards and countless “eye in the sky” cameras.
Now, Pechanga Resort & Casino is adding robots to its security detail. The Temecula casino hotel — the largest on the West Coast — announced Monday that it was the first casino resort in the U.S. to deploy 24/7 surveillance robots.
A nearly 6-foot-tall stationary bot has been installed outside the main casino valet entrance, while a roving 400-pound, 5-foot-6-inch-tall, R2-D2-like machine autonomously wheels around Pechanga’s hotel lobby and airport terminal-sized glass atrium. The robots are programmed to continuously capture and transmit 360-degree HD video and photos, scanning for suspicious activity, unattended packages and sounds, while also using thermal imaging to detect literal hotspots, like a fire in a wall or even spilled coffee.
Robert Krauss, Pechanga’s vice president for public safety, said the casino resort has a staff of 300 security personnel and “thousands” of eye in the sky cameras. The robots are a way to enhance the safety measures Pechanga already takes.
“The robots are the next level in that,” Krauss said. “I’m a big proponent in technology and in order to stay ahead, to make sure the patrons and team members are safe, you have to get the latest technology.”
With the robots’ cameras and sensors seeing things at eye level, versus overhead, Pechanga’s security team gets a different visual perspective, he said.
“Humans pick up only so much and after a while, you might miss something. Robots don’t miss anything.”
Pechanga plans to acquire a second roving robot, and the original wheeled bot — named “Buddy” — will use its license-plate recognition capability to monitor the parking garages for stolen or abandoned vehicles, or cars belonging to people who are wanted by the law.
Manufactured by Mountain View-based tech firm Knightscope, the robots are leased to Pechanga for $7 to $8 an hour.
While Krauss said he’d been looking at acquiring the robots for at least a year and a half, the profile of casino hotel security has been raised since the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, when a gunman fired hundreds of rounds at concert-goers from hotel windows at Mandalay Bay, killing 58 and injuring 851.
Pechanga held a joint agency active shooter drill just weeks after the Las Vegas shooting. And several casinos beefed up the security in anticipation of the summer outdoor concert season. Pala Casino Spa & Resort and Viejas Casino & Resort, for example, started screening the luggage of all guests checking into the casinos’ adjacent hotels.
“Buddy” also scans the lines of concert-goers waiting to go through the metal detectors before concerts at the Pechanga Summit event center and Pechanga Theater.
Krauss said customers and hotel guests aren’t put off by the upped surveillance.
“I think people know that when you step foot in any casino, you’re going to be on camera,” he said.
“Buddy,” in particular, has actually been a hit with the crowds, he said, and even gets his picture taken.
“People love him, they’re hugging him, high-fiving him. There are hundreds of selfies a day with him.”