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U.K. Researchers Develop Anti-Card Counting Surveillance Tool

10/20/2009 -Two researchers in the United Kingdom believe they have developed one more tool in a casino's arsenal to ensure the house almost always wins,according to New Scientist.             

The tool created by Krists Zutis and Jesse Hoey at the University of Dundee, Scotland, can supposedly sniff out with almost perfect accuracy those players that could cost a casino big time: card counters.

A stereo camera mounted above the table records the action. A computer processes the video feed to identify cards as they are dealt, face up, and monitors their value. The camera also records the precise height of betting chip stacks and the computer uses the information to work out betting patterns.

By comparing the cards and gambling patterns, the computer can identify a card counter inside 20 hands - even if the gambler starts off with a run of high bets to confuse the system.

Card counting isn't illegal, but players intelligent enough to do so can expect to be escorted out of the casino by security staff. Card counters can be permanently banned from ever reentering that casino again.

In their scientific paper, presented at the International Conference on Computer Vision Systems in Belgium last week, Zutis and Hoey write their detection system should interest casinos for two reasons—it's cheap and effective. 

Casinos have experimented with RFID tags embedded in cards and chips but the researchers say these efforts are expensive and susceptible to fraud. On the other hand, Zutis and Hoey's tool utilizes computer vision, making their tool "an ideal simple, fast, and inexpensive solution."

Second, card counting is on the rise as portable devices such as the iPhone and the movie "21" have made card counting a very popular way to get an advantage over the house. While it's illegal to use technological assistance to win at Blackjack, it hasn't stopped card players from downloading an iPhone card counting application 500 times each day, according to the researchers. Zutis and Hoey's system can detect card counters, regardless of whether they're getting some tech-friendly assistance.

The tool is still in the academic/development stage,but as Yahoo Tech notes, "casinos are always eager to experiment with high-tech systems that foil gamblers in their attempts to leave the joint with money in their pockets. Don't be surprised to hear that this one is actually rolled out in the months ahead."

♦ Photo by Sascha W/Flickr