Take a Walk Along a Las Vegas Casino Surveillance Catwalk

It’s rare when you see something you’ve never seen before, but gird your loins, you’re about to.

A few years back, before Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall (originally Barbary Coast) was gutted to become the Cromwell, we got to stroll the casino’s old-school, labyrinthine catwalk.

casino security catwalk

Do you have any idea how long we’ve waited to use the word “labyrinthine” in a blog post?

Before the “eye in the sky” came along, casino surveillance guys (they were pretty much universally male) would peer down from above with binoculars to watch for dishonest employees and players trying to cheat the house.

Mostly that first thing, surprisingly.

What was it like? Here’s a never-before-seen glimpse into a bygone era in Las Vegas.

Many of the old security passageways in Las Vegas casinos were closed off years ago, but a few remain.

Given the extensive renovation of Cromwell, it’s unlikely the security catwalk in our video survived.

Casino security has come a long way since the early days of Las Vegas, of course. Now, casinos use sophisticated cameras and video analysis software to protect their assets.

casino security

In older casinos, new technology (dome cameras, left) co-exists with old. Note the one-way mirrors at right.

In recent years, Las Vegas casinos have started using what’s called “non-obvious relationship awareness,” or NORA, software. This software allows security to tell if players and dealers are colluding.

Casinos even employ cryptographers and game theorists to assist with security efforts.

Here’s a fun fact: Casino employee uniforms are designed to deter theft. Sleeves are often kept short to prevent concealing chips, and pockets are either disallowed or covered with aprons.

craps dealer

Short sleeves and no pockets. Now, you know why.

Enjoy another glimpse into the past of Las Vegas.

casino security

Even that red discard tray is a security measure! They help security detect inks, or “daubs,” used to mark cards.

There’s something thrilling, and more than a little creepy, about walking in the footsteps of those early surveillance teams.

Back in the day, casinos often didn’t hand over unscrupulous employees or cheats to the police, preferring to deal with the issues internally. If you get our drift.

While some may pine for the early days of Las Vegas, we tend to prefer our kneecaps unbroken and our eyes unpopped out.

4 thoughts on “Take a Walk Along a Las Vegas Casino Surveillance Catwalk

  1. William Wingo

    Back in the 1970s, The Mint Hotel downtown offered a behind-the-scenes tour that included part of the catwalk system. Looks familiar.

  2. wb7777

    Wonder how much asbestos those old-time casino surveillance guys inhaled over the years walking around on those things, in that environment, day after day.

  3. George Rice

    Those catwalks and their use (binoculars and all) were depicted in the Martin Scorsese movie “Casino”, from the ’90s. One interesting fact not mentioned in the article was that some casinos employed ex-cheats as their “spies in the sky,” as they knew what to look for. Some scenes were filmed in the old Aladdin, so perhaps they used the Aladdin’s catwalks in the scenes too. Also depicted was what the casinos did to the cheats they caught. :-0

    1. William Wingo

      There’s also “Where It’s At,” a 1969 movie set at Caesars Palace with David Janssen, Roesmary Forsyth, Brenda Vacarro, Robert Drivas, and Don Rickles, where the catwalks play an important role. Casino boss Janssen is outsmarted by his son (Drivas) who gets control of 2/3 of the company. In the climactic scene, he then offers Janssen a deal–“Double or nothing: your third against one of mine”–on a cut of the cards. Janssen cuts a Jack and shows it. His wife (Forsythe), watching from the catwalk, sees Drivas cut a King, hold it for a second, and then muck it. Only the two of them and the movie audience know it. Janssen gets Forsythe and his controlling interest back; Drivas gets Brenda Vacarro and goes back to graduate school; and cheating Blackjack dealer Rickles repents, makes restitution, and survives–a happy ending all around. It also has Edy Williams as a showgirl, some very nice nostalgia shots of the Strip and Fremont Street in 1969, and once or twice you can hear them paging a “Mr. Jay Sarno.”
      You can tell I haven’t wasted MY life….


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