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Casinos don’t see world through Google Glass

Gambling regulators around the country are warning their flock of casinos to keep guests from wearing Google Glass, the Internet search giant’s prototype computer that is meant to be worn like a pair of eyeglasses.

Google Glass, with its video, photo and Web capabilities, is potentially a device that could facilitate cheating at casinos.

But while individual casinos in Maryland have established rules banning the high-tech facial accessory — capable of recording video, snapping photos and surfing the Web — Maryland regulators have not followed the lead of their counterparts in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency staff say existing rules implemented by the agency banning use of electronic devices at table games in Maryland’s four casinos ought to be sufficient to protect against whatever cheating Google Glass might promote. There’s no plan to draft a formal regulation unless a need arises, a spokeswoman said.

The alternative might be daunting, said Mark W. Nichols, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Institute for the Study of Gambling & Commercial Gaming.

“Maryland may just be thinking they want a more all-encompassing regulation, rather than writing a regulation for every possible contingency that arises, every type of device,” Nichols said Tuesday.

But casinos aren’t leaving the issue to chance. Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills mall has pre-emptively banned Google Glass, which isn’t yet for sale. The same is true of Hollywood Casino Perryville in Cecil County, where executives decided in June to be cautious with the new technology.

“This is [being] proactive, as the devices would enable a player to cheat and communicate hands while they are being played at the tables, thus leading to an unfair advantage,” said Jennifer Miglionico, Hollywood Casino’s director of marketing.

A spokesman for Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Western Maryland declined to comment on how casino management would handle the new technology. A representative from the Casino at Ocean Downs on the Eastern Shore did not respond to a request for comment. Google also did not respond to a request for comment.

David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said Google’s computerized spectacles were just the latest salvo in technology’s battle with casinos, where executives and security bosses have long feared homemade devices similar to the one that Google plans to mass produce.

“I think there’s always a hopscotching of casino security and surveillance,” Schwartz said, adding that technology posing problems for gambling was nothing new.

“It’s a wrinkle on it. It’s definitely a new wrinkle on it. It makes it easier as opposed to having to build something yourself,” he said. “It’s a big deal, but it’s not something totally new. I think they’ve been struggling with this for a while.”

Nichols said one way casinos have dealt with improving technology, and cheating in general, is by hiring former cheats who were ultimately caught by law enforcement. But it’s a constant struggle to match technological advancements — smaller and smaller cameras and the use of more sophisticated methods of counting cards in games such as blackjack — with security and surveillance upgrades.

“I think there’ll be continual challenges, but I think there also will be continuous responses to those,” Nichols said. “Criminals get more sophisticated, law enforcement gets more sophisticated, and that seems to be a continuous cycle.”

Gambling commissions in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have instructed casinos to ban Google Glass from their facilities. That’s on top of individual bans already issued by some casinos, including those owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., which heads a group that plans to open the Horseshoe Baltimore casino on Russell Street next year.

The Missouri Gaming Commission and Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board are also reportedly considering banning Google’s invention from casinos. The advantage of having such a ban specifically placed in state regulations, Nichols said, might not be apparent unless a case winds up in court.

“I guess the issue would be potential lawsuits if the casino kicks somebody out, and they say there’s no regulation,” he said.