In one case that was particularly amusing (only because the crisis was averted), an operative decided to go to the hotel’s business office late one night to print out his report. The business center’s printer malfunctioned. To ensure that no one intercepted the printout when the printer was fixed, the agent had to remain in the business office for the rest of that night until an employee showed up the next morning.
Mystery players must be knowledgeable about casino operations and must understand the fundamentals of each game well enough so that they can focus on watching the action without worrying they’ll blow their cover. An awareness of the rules of the games and the strategies employed legitimately, as well as illegitimately, by players will help the mystery player detect dishonest gaming.
The most effective service providers hire experienced casino game players or former employees of gaming establishments who can use their previous experience to advantage. Those not experienced in the gaming industry should at least enjoy gambling and receive training from the service in playing blackjack, three-card poker, roulette, craps, or whatever games will be offered at the site. The mystery player should be given training in the types of inappropriate behaviors they should be on the lookout for, including dealer and player cheating maneuvers.
During training, agents should also be taught ways to stay in character at the gaming table. An example is to learn not to react to any transgressions. In one case, an operative working on a cruise ship was shorted a $5 check on a bet payoff at craps. He complained to a supervisor and asked to see the tape of the transaction in the casino office. The tape revealed that the agent was right, but after the disruption he had caused, his value as a mystery player evaporated.
Contract provisions. Once a provider has been chosen, the casino signs a contract—sometimes for only a single visit, sometimes for repeated visits during the course of a year. Some companies will offer clients a sample visit and report. It may be prudent to ask about that option. The contract should include the agreed-upon payment rate, when the visit or visits will occur, and the date when the resulting report containing a faithful chronology and objective observations will be given to the client.
A typical visit entails a stay of about five days and four nights for two mystery players, including travel time for these individuals. This results in about three full days of observation. Expenses that the establishment is expected to reimburse the service provider for include airfare, local transportation, accommodations, meals, and tips. Personal purchases by the agents are not included.
The agents usually play two sessions per day of about three hours, with two to three hours of report writing time required daily. To do this, the agents must receive front money from the casino with which to play. At the end of the job, all funds should be returned.
Reports. Preliminary meetings between the client and provider should include a review of various report formats offered by the provider to make sure that the resulting intelligence is delivered in a way that is truly useful.
Preparatory training. Operatives who are up to snuff on casino games will still need additional training to become familiar with the particular casino’s operating policies and behavior expectations for personnel. Operating manuals, personnel policies, and performance guidelines should be given to the mystery players for review. If those cannot be distributed outside the company due to proprietary policy, then the person handling the contract for the provider should at least be permitted to read them on site and take approved notes of the most important aspects so that these can be relayed to the mystery players. For example, the operatives need to know when shifts change, whether single- and multi-deck shuffle machines are in use, or whether slots pay in tokens or paper receipts.
Mystery players also need to have access to pictures of all casino staff. Head and shoulders shots are best. This information will ensure that the players do not accidentally report the wrong employee as having breached policies and procedures. Agents are trained to keep the pictures secure in their hotel rooms.
If pictures cannot be provided, then at a minimum, a list of staff names must be available. This approach is less effective, however, because it leaves the agents to rely on nametags that can be obscured by long hair or can be unreadable because of distance. If neither pictures nor a list is provided, the operatives must rely on names they overhear or must report descriptions of employees. Both of these lead to identification errors.