By Gerry Boose
The genesis of the GSPC, a not-for-profit industry association with representation from every jurisdiction across Canada, was a meeting of casino security directors from across the country in 1994 hosted by Loto-Québec. The purpose of the meeting was to develop a network of senior professionals and identify best practices in the fledgling Canadian industry. And there was a particular urgency to do so, as professional travelling cheat teams were determined at the time to take advantage of inexperienced staff. As well, while game integrity systems, policies, and procedures had been well researched and implemented, they were just beginning to be fully tested and challenged in a live environment – creating further opportunities for those seeking unfair advantage.
That network of directors quickly became well established with ongoing communications amongst the membership and an Annual General Meeting (AGM) hosted by the participating jurisdictions on a rotational basis. The breadth and depth of the membership grew over time, with the criteria being expanded to include not only the current leaders in the field but the next generation, as well as corporate members who were partners in ensuring safety, security, and game integrity.
The mandate also grew over time beyond land-based casino gaming, evolving to include conventional lottery ticket systems, video lottery terminal networks, electronic gaming centres, and e-gaming. And the scope of issues being addressed increased with matters such as responsible gaming, anti-money laundering, and cyber security taking greater prominence. A more recent trend has been the broadening of the surveillance mandate from an important element in operational compliance to a leadership role in many gaming organizations.
But with all these emerging issues, there was the opportunity to evolve and respond over time. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that as it was an unprecedented and largely unanticipated threat for which the industry had no experience to draw upon. The industry had already endured SARS and H1N1 outbreaks, but the global COVID-19 crisis was a different magnitude. While epidemic and pandemic risks were often identified in threat assessments, few organizations accurately considered the probability of this global pandemic largely shutting down the casino gaming industry for over a year. There are lessons to be learned there.
Given the uniqueness of these circumstances, it is quite remarkable how well the industry has responded to ensure the continuing safety, security, and integrity of its land-based operations and prepare for a large-scale reopening of business which we hope will take place in the not-too-distant future. To achieve these ends, the GSPC hosted multiple special-purpose meetings and a major educational session at its virtual AGM in 2020. Another special-purpose meeting was held in May.
These meetings provided an opportunity to discuss the development of policies and protocols in support of patrons, employees, and contractors entering the properties, such as ensuring capacity limits are not exceeded, maintaining physical distancing, contact tracing where appropriate, and following applicable public health regulations. Game offerings and floor layouts have also been impacted by the new requirements to ensuring facilities support the objective of keeping people healthy. Environmental systems, barriers, readily available hand sanitizers, and rigorous cleaning and sanitizing programs are essential elements, while signage is required to convey expectations for visitors and staff on the premises. Another key concern has been training regarding all facets of operations. Many employees have been on furlough for a significant period of time and will need to catch up on their return. In addition, the collaborative role of security and surveillance working with facilities management, operations, and regulatory bodies is vital for safe and successful reopenings.
The GSPC is planning on holding a comprehensive debrief of the pandemic and the industry’s recovery at the 2021 AGM this coming November. At that point, we expect to be discussing lessons learned and to have had experience the many anticipated structural changes that will impact clients, staff, the gaming mix, and perhaps the entire entertainment experience for the foreseeable future.
Through this collaboration, sharing of experiences, and identification of best practices, it is anticipated that the security segment of the Canadian gaming industry will deliver its mandate in the most effective and efficient manner possible. This takes on unparalleled importance when responding to an existential threat and doing our part in bringing the industry safely back to life, recognizing the importance that holds for staff, clients, our organizations, and the economy. This is, of course, being done against a backdrop of significant financial pressures. Revenues have been devastated and the future remains uncertain. With that, there is no better time for collaboration to ensure we are not reinventing the wheel when the solution already lies out there.