Land-based casinos have appeared in a number of well-known, top-quality films and television series. You only need to look at various James Bond movies to realise that he has a penchant for engaging in a bit of gambling from time to time. And while these films may show a view of a casino on the big screen what are the rules for the average Joe who wants to capture some of their time at a casino with a photo or a video?
The glitz and glamour displayed by casinos in the numerous Hollywood films about them has led some people to want to take their own cameras, video recorders and so on, in a bid to capture the essence of what goes on in a physical casino. Of course, this all raises the question of if it is actually legal and possible to take pictures or videos inside? Do the owners allow their visitors to take snapshots and video memorabilia of their time playing the games and placing bets?
In general, the answer is no and this is historically the way that it has always been. Today, with the prevalence of smartphones, many establishments are now allowing their guests to take pictures but only away from the table games, cashier and slot machines. Videos, on the other hand, are almost universally banned.
A Look Back in History
Cameras were not something that a huge majority of people had possession of when casinos first opened. Therefore, it wasn’t even something that many people even considered to take into a casino for this reason. However, as more and more people began being able to afford cameras and video cameras, casinos took action against players bringing them into their establishments. Therefore, historically, photography was strictly forbidden inside casinos, and this was a rule that was introduced industry-wide. Of course, most casinos argued that cameras posed a security and privacy risk, both to it and to other players inside. The biggest fear being, of course, that people can use photos and videos to help them cheat.
Photography was said to highlight certain security vulnerabilities, making it much easier for someone looking to take advantage of a casino. Since then many casinos have moved with the times and do allow a few snapshots to be taken inside, provided these are not taken of active tables, the cashier cage or any unsuspecting or unwilling employees. In order to ensure that you can take such photos though, it is always a better idea to ask an employee what is possible in the specific area.
Even if you do get the go-ahead to take photos in one location or another, it is key to note that most casinos take a dim view to such activity. One main reason behind this is because they have a duty to protect the privacy of other people gambling at the casino. Some of these other players may not enjoy being in a photo, even if they’re in the background, and others may not have any desire to be seen engaging in gambling activities. The prevalence of social media now means photos can be uploaded and viewed by thousands of people, if you were in a casino and didn’t want any evidence you were there it would be a concern if someone was taking and uploading photos to open platforms.
Yet, it’s not just about the security and privacy of the other people visiting the casino, but the people working within it as well. Employees are there to do a job, and people taking photos of them or catching them in a picture may not be something they appreciate. And some land-based casinos today even restrict players from taking gadgets like smartphones or tablets passed their doors because of this. And if this is a policy of the casino, then you will need to comply with it and either leave your smartphone at home or store it in a locker somewhere.
The Sinister Side Of Cameras in Casinos
Today, people have high-quality cameras installed on their smartphones and tablets. However, prior to this being the case, digital cameras and standard cameras before them were used for photography. Someone taking one of these into a land-based casino would look quite shifty moving between the tables and machines, taking snapshots of things. After all, shouldn’t a person in a casino be there to place bets on the games, rather than record or photograph the activity taking place within? The likelihood is that these people were deemed as performing surveillance for illegal activities.
Considering that casinos are hotbeds for money, robbery and cheating has not been uncommon over the decades. Even though security today is much tighter than it ever has been before, casino crime remains rampant. Therefore, restrictions on exactly what you can do when inside one can still be quite heavy.
Smartphones and such may easily be allowed in casinos today, although not in all cases, but someone taking a digital camera or a tripod or anything related to photography and video recording won’t be allowed. Anything that can be considered as an assistant to taking professional-grade images is forbidden in most casino establishments.
Issues with Security
Security remains the prime reason for photography being banned, restricted or heavily scrutinised in casinos. Any time money is involved, people are a lot more vigilant over things. Big casinos experience millions of dollars passing through their establishments every single night. In 2019, it was discovered that people in the United Kingdom spend about £14.5 billion on gambling every year. And while a large portion of this is utilised on online gambling, land-based casinos still experience a lot of it, too. Therefore, the casino has a duty to protect that cash. And despite the majority of casino crimes being inside jobs, the security team know that anyone can be considered as a risk.
Because of the tight security measures in place, you are prevented from taking pictures of the areas that would be vulnerable to criminal activity. This includes, as mentioned before, the cashier cages, where you buy and settle your chips, and therefore money exchanges hands. It is almost impossible for someone taking pictures of this to not be considered as very suspicious.
Additionally, cheating is something that casinos are aware of and always trying to stamp down on. Photography, and especially video recordings, can be used to monitor player hands and thereby learn their strategy. This can easily be studied so that you’re able to beat them at a poker table, for example. That same theory can be applied to someone playing on a slot machine or at the blackjack table. When someone else has enough information on hand, they can increase their own odds dramatically. This takes the edge away from the house, which is something the casino wants to avoid. Therefore, casino bosses limit the amount of internal photography, because they believe it will leave them less exposed to fraud and so on.
A Bit of Privacy, Please!
Imagine that you are playing your favourite casino game and then someone starts clicking away at their camera. That would be even worse if there was a flash going off every several seconds. Most people require some sort of privacy when playing casino games, and if you’re being captured on camera or video, that privacy is completely gone. In days gone by, casinos provided anonymity for anyone entering them. And it was this anonymity that drew many players in to such establishments.
Unfortunately, the same level of privacy is no longer available, and with every photo taken, the old mentality of anonymity inside a casino disappears. Someone could easily take a selfie within a casino and capture 10 other people in the background, many of whom may wish to remain anonymous during their gaming session.
If privacy is something that you yourself look for when playing at a casino, this is possible, but it generally costs more. High rollers, for example, can play games in private rooms, but these must be “bought”.
Of course, regulating the use of smartphones within casinos today is exceptionally difficult. If the casino does not have an official regulation that stops people from bringing them to their establishments, then they cannot really be monitored in such a good way. After all, a huge portion of the world now possesses a smartphone and/or a tablet and rather than try to heavily enforce smartphone regulations, many casinos have relaxed their rules and made it possible for photos to be taken only in specific areas.
This works for the casino as well though, because social media is such a necessary marketing area today. Multiple people taking selfies and pictures with their friends in a casino and tagging themselves, checking in from the casino and so on, provides free marketing for the establishment in the process. Therefore, it can be quite the lucrative way of the casino making additional money.
Videos Are Still a Big No-No
Despite the fact that the rules and regulations in many casinos have relaxed with regard to taking photos, this is not the case where recording videos is concerned. It is widely forbidden for anyone to record a video inside a casino. Anyone caught filming employees, tables, slot machines, the cashier’s cage etc. is likely to be thrown out and banned from entering the casino again. In some cases, security will approach you and ask you to delete the video that you have recorded.
The rules around recordings and photos are usually posted in the entrance way or on the casino doors. It is common to see casinos blatantly displaying signs that forbid such activity, and this is to protect personnel, the games being played within the casino, and the security of the house overall. After all, someone could record a video throughout the establishment and figure out where security is most lacking. It wouldn’t be the first time that it has happened, and therefore, casinos maintain a strict policy against videos being recorded within their walls.
Security in casinos is the best that it has ever been at the moment, and there are plenty of protocols in place for various potential incidents. Security personal are, however, limited in what they can ask you to do if you have taken photos or videos.
Many will ask you delete any content, but this is largely at your discretion, you don’t have to. If you refuse to, of course, you are almost certainly going to be ejected and banned but they do not have the legal right to force you to delete your own content. What the certainly can not do is take your device off your and try to delete content, that would be illegal on their behalf.
In 99% of cases if someone has taken a video or photo when they shouldn’t have done it will be by accident. Most people in this scenario will oblige when asked to delete the content. Not deleting the content in itself is obviously suspicious to them.
Technically speaking, it is not illegal for someone to take a camera into a casino establishment and take photos. And the same is true of recording videos inside a casino. There isn’t a specific law involved in casino licensing that states that people are prohibited from recording their time inside a casino. Casinos can establish their own rules surrounding the taking of photographs, and such a decision by a licensee to not allow that kind of activity is very much a policy decision that casino would make internally.
Each casino has its own rules and regulations, and even if these are not frequently posted publicly, they do remain in effect. This is why it’s always good to ask someone what is possible where photography is concerned. At times, some establishments will provide Instagram-ready backdrops, where all selfies and group-shots can be taken for social media purposes. The Park MGM Casino for example, built its own ivy-backed wall which is adjacent to the casino. There, people can take their photos with a neon-lit hashtag showing they were there.
Of course, it is much easier to take quick photos or videos with a smartphone than it is with a digital camera or other professional photography equipment. While it may be a possibility for you to do this covertly you need to be smart about recording your time in a casino. Don’t disrupt other players, or employees, and don’t draw any sort of attention to yourself by snapping images of game tables or using a flash inside. And if you are confronted by security when engaging in photography, don’t be confrontational. If you have broken the rules, then apologise and adhere to their policies – although remember you do not have to delete anything but if you don’t you will be thrown out.