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A reliable security camera system gives casinos better odds of remaining profitable

For a casino, constant threats of theft, hacking, and fraud from guests and employees are simply table stakes. The combination of high-volume visitor traffic and significant amounts of cash can create potential security nightmares, with the cards often stacked against the house. That is why it’s no surprise that the gaming industry – one of the largest users of video surveillance technology – continues to double down on security by investing in the latest technologies to protect facilities, employees and guests.

Reliability Matters
Having a reliable security camera system gives gaming environments better odds of remaining profitable by deterring criminal activity and tracking activity patterns. Recent breakthroughs in digital imaging surveillance technology including facial recognition, AI and audio/video analytics add even more tools to a casino’s security arsenal.

Video surveillance technology has changed dramatically since gaming was permitted in Nevada to entertain workers on the Hoover Dam project nearly a century ago. The gaming industry was among the first to adopt CCTV technology in the 1960s and 1970s, and most casinos mounted analog CCTV cameras to cover the gaming floor and surrounding areas such as restaurants, lounges and lobbies – anyplace where criminal activity might occur.

On-site security personnel regularly noticed common behavioral patterns among offenders, cheaters, and fraudulent employees. However, taking action against such behaviors was more reactive than proactive before intelligent video solutions came along.

Security in casinos has progressed from pit bosses watching over the games with their own eyes, to surveillance solutions that incorporate on-board analytics to achieve enhanced monitoring; helping casinos turn their surveillance footage into actionable business intelligence.

Delivering Data
These analytics deliver data that can drive intelligent monitoring for casinos, helping operators understand guest behavior patterns, determine the busiest, and slower, times of the day, which games are more regularly visited, and more. Managers may decide where to place staff depending on traffic. Heat maps and flow patterns have the potential to distinguish where casino guests spend most of their time and how they move through the casino, allowing the casino designers to optimize the layout to maximize participation.

The role of on-board analytics will continue to expand as the gaming industry combines edge computing and AI to achieve enhanced monitoring and search efficiency. The use of Edge AI, especially with analytics based on deep learning algorithms, can be a key element in a range of “smart surveillance” applications.

These include object detection and classification, and collection of attributes in the form of metadata – all while reducing latency and system bandwidth burdens and enabling real-time data gathering and situational monitoring.

Smart Video Surveillance, Smarter Casinos
Smart video surveillance involves integrating analytics into an organization’s surveillance camera architecture. The results of such integrations can include improvements in threat detection, operating efficiencies, and solve numerous other common pain points facing casinos. A modern, well-designed AI video surveillance architecture consists of five main components: cameras, recorder, network, monitoring, and analytics.

Most casinos today incorporate these five items to mitigate risk and enhance their situational awareness. For example, with slot machines, one huge challenge is ensuring coverage of every machine on the casino floor. Working with an expert security consultant is crucial when it comes to deciding where to place the cameras and the type of cameras installed.

Most casinos look for cameras with enough flexibility to cover large areas with great detail and at high resolution, selecting capabilities such as 4K resolution or Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) technology for challenging lighting conditions.

Today, when you walk in most casinos you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of cameras overlooking the gaming floor. Not all cameras are necessarily up above. They can be strategically placed facing the slot machines or inserted in poker tables. Security departments are tasked with monitoring for any suspicious activity via the camera network. Fortunately, newer security technologies are making their job much easier.

Digital imaging technology have AI capabilities that not only assist with table monitoring. This same technology can go as far detecting blacklisted individuals through facial recognition and unwanted vehicles through license plate recognition. Facial recognition data on potential scammers can also be shared with other gambling establishments and some technologies can even identify underage visitors, with staff notified to check the player’s ID. These advanced video analytics can be used as investigative tools in the event of a security incident, but they can also inform staff of a high-profile client arriving on the premises.

Essential Cameras
Every detail in a gaming environment needs to be meticulous, making cameras essential to the 24/7 operation of a casino. If only one camera goes down over a game table, the casino is forced to shut down that table. If several cameras go down, they must close the entire floor, potentially losing thousands of dollars in revenue.

In the event of a complete power failure in a Colorado casino, all table games must be shut down until power is restored or if the establishment is equipped with a backup generator. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines. In addition, Colorado is requiring that all casinos have digital cameras in place by Jan. 1, 2024. Analog cameras will no longer be allowed for all gaming activities.

Casinos are regulated at either the state-level or by a tribal gaming authority. In many places where gaming is common, security cameras are now required by law to always track gaming tables and dealers. Consequently, casinos must keep a record of any incidents or violations recorded on video.

The gambling capital of the United States -- Las Vegas – is setting the pace, as the state of Nevada has set strict regulations on security operations for gaming facilities. For example, surveillance systems in casinos with annual gross gaming revenue of $15 million or more are required to be maintained and operated from a surveillance room.

This would not be possible without a VMS that can integrate with hundreds of cameras simultaneously. Another Nevada regulation states that all DVR equipment must be capable of recording at a minimum of 30 images per second, full screen, in real time; and the footage must be stored for at least seven days.

These regulations make it difficult for gaming facilities to fall behind on technology updates and with Las Vegas being a huge player in the casino industry, other American casinos are following suit.

Using In-camera Analytics to Save on Video Storage
Every casino has to comply with strict retention requirements in part because forensic examination and maintaining a clear chain of custody are extremely important. For example, the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort in Arizona has a one-week minimum retention rate with some cameras keeping video for 30 days.

With more than 800 Hanwha Techwin cameras installed, the casino is required to store massive amounts of data. Currently, they have 500 terabytes (TB) of redundant ZFS-based network storage.
To reduce the amount needed for video surveillance footage, they use motion-based high/low recording to maximize storage. If no motion is detected in a frame, the camera is set up to record at very low quality and low frame rate. If the camera detects motion, then the recording automatically shifts to high-quality mode.

All casinos want to create a carefree environment where guests can enjoy gambling in a safe environment. Smart casinos know that smart video surveillance technology is an important investment that will pay off significantly over time by reducing thefts, increasing traffic and, ultimately, increasing their revenues.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2022 issue of Security Today.

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