What is the eye in the sky?

The term ‘eye in the sky’ was coined to describe casino surveillance in the early days of gambling houses in Las Vegas, Nevada. The original ‘eye in the sky’ was simply a space in the casino ceiling fitted with one-way, or half-silvered, glass through which surveillance operatives could covertly view the floor below for signs of suspicious activity. As the casino industry grew, the surveillance function was performed by small teams of operatives, armed with binoculars, who prowled security catwalks above the casino floor in search of dishonest employees or guests.

Nowadays, the term ‘eye in the sky’ refers to the hundreds of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras that provide a major security countermeasure in modern casinos. Sophisticated, high-definition CCTV cameras cover every square inch of the casino, including not only the tables in the casino pit, but also other sensitive areas, such as the soft count room, where banknotes are counted, or the casino cashier, or ‘cage’, where players cash in their chips.

The network of CCTV cameras dotted around the casino operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and, effectively, provides surveillance of every employee and guest. Modern surveillance operators tend to focus on one area of the casino at a time, but on the instruction of security personnel, or a pit boss, can switch to a specific camera at any time. Indeed, modern surveillance cameras typically use video analysis software, including facial recognition technology, to identify card counters and other ‘undesirable’ guests and generally protect the assets of the casino.