IP video CCTV systems integral part of casino network
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Nov 01, 2008
It’s no wonder that casino operators are among the
most proactive and demanding users of video surveillance.
A quality surveillance system is as much
a part of the business model as chips, cards and highstakes
dealers. For the casino operator, resolving gaming
disputes is made easier with best-quality video for
images and frame rates.
“An IP video system that delivers these essential elements
also adds other dimensions to the surveillance
operation by providing analytical search tools and features,
such as recall of recorded video,” said Oliver
Vellacott, founder of IndigoVision. “The use of IP video
technology allows any component in the system to be
located anywhere on the network. This gives large casinos
the flexibility to easily and cost-effectively integrate
CCTV surveillance into their operations and establish
off-site control rooms or monitor multiple sites from one
Casinos face myriad issues, including the fact that
they often cover a large floor area with a tremendous
number of gaming tables and slot machines. Factor in a
24/7, high-motion environment in which large amounts
of cash are handled, and this creates a venue of cheating,
theft and fraud.
With so much at stake, the fast resolution of customer
disputes is important. Also, if there is an incident or
equipment failure, a gaming table or area can be shut
down, costing the casino money.
“The presense of an IP solution is paramount,” said
Thomas Lee, CEO of American Video Electronics Inc.
“We always recommend an internal network because we
see the digital advantages exceeding use of an analog
system. We also stress a customized solution where
unlimited cameras can be used to keep the business open
and generating revenue.”
Depending upon the location of the
casino, regulations vary, but it’s safe to say
they are stringent. For instance, in Florida,
no slot machine can be used if CCTV does
not record each play at a digital quality
high enough to see the numbers and symbols
on the machine and if the denominations
of the bills and coins being fed into
them by players are not visible.
The advantage rests with IP video surveillance
solutions because image quality
is a key asset to casino operators. Perhaps
the advantages of IP video can best be
highlighted by looking at the disadvantages
of analog CCTV. Traditional coax
or fiber-based video systems are limited
and are becoming increasingly unreliable
and difficult to maintain.
Both Lee and Vellacott agree that a
switching matrix is the component that
provides control room flexibility for analog
CCTV systems, but it cannot be easily
expanded without adding new hardware.
It also is location dependent.
“The analog camera industry is
dying,” Lee said. “It may not happen right
away, but it will go away in the next 10
years or so.”
Vellacott said the cost of expansion is
poor even with the introduction of DVRs,
which have improved recording capabilities—
but they too are limited. He said
DVRs have to be installed near the analog
matrix, and frame rate and image quality
are often compromised.
“Image quality is paramount to casino
operators, and analog systems cannot
accommodate the new breed of megapixel
cameras,” Vellacott said. “The maximum
resolution attainable with a composite
video signal is only 4 CIF.”
Winning with IP
The way to beat the system is to use an IP
video system, which provides a solution
for aging and unreliable VCR/DVR analog-
based CCTV systems.
“Casinos want a single, scalable integrated
solution that provides reliable,
high-quality video surveillance across
any number of their offices or sites, and
this is what IP video delivers,” Vellacott
said. “Unlike centralized analog systems,
which have a single point of failure, IP
video systems are distributed and provide
a more resilient and fault-tolerant solution.
Recording is achieved using NVRs,
which unlike DVRs can be located at any
point on the network.”
The matrix is the key component in
any analog CCTV system, and in an IP
system, the network and software controlling
it become the virtual matrix. Lee
said in an IP system, the network and the
software controlling it become the virtual
matrix. In a true IP video solution, the
analog matrix is removed and replaced
with a virtual matrix.
“Casinos demand the highest standard
video quality,” Vellacott said. “In order to
detect sleight of hand or subtle scams,
full frame rate live viewing and review of
recorded footage is essential.
“Any lowered frame rates, dropped
frames or jerky stop-start video make
the system unusable when trying to track
hand movements and cash or chips
Leading end-to-end surveillance systems
guarantee consistent IP video
streaming and recording of high resolution
at up to 30 frames per second. And,
as everyone knows, in the casino world, it
is high motion, 24/7 and it’s critical that
frames are not dropped, even in fast-moving
The Importance of Fault Tolerance
A high level of fault tolerance also is in
demand by casino operators and government or independent gaming regulators. It is important for redundancy to perform at a
high level. Gaming regulators mandate that active gaming tables are always recorded.
A casino operator also must comply with the guidance of closing a table that is not
being recorded. All combined, this means that casinos require a high level of fault tolerance
and redundancy to minimize downtime.
In the event of a failure, an immediate failover component must be available, thus
eliminating downtime. Analog systems often have to employ banks of VCR or DVR
standbys in case of failure. This is a costly solution, in contrast to a well-designed IP
video system that can eliminate table downtime due to NVR failure by multistreaming
the camera video to a primary and secondary NVR simultaneously. Another solution
lies in the fact that video recording can be automatically assigned to other NVRs in the
system when a primary NVR fails.
“NVRs can be located at any point on the system and have redundant power supplies
and network connectivity that eliminate any single point of system failure,”
In the event of a failure and a failover to a redundant part, the IP video system also
will have an alert and reporting system that will clearly identify the problem and
prompt remedial action.
Overwhelmingly, IP technology has improved the means by which end users can
search and use recorded video footage. Vellacott said key features, including easy cameras
selected based on real-world names or overlay map reference and instant replay
facilities, enable an operator to get to the footage quickly and easily resolve any dispute.
In case of fraud, theft, possible terrorist activities and public liability claims, sophisticated
analytics can be employed to quickly search and find the incident. Scene changes,
activity in a particular area or directional movement can be targeted as search criteria.
Case in Point
When the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash., upgraded its aging VCR-based analog system to a fully digital IP video
CCTV solution, the reliability and
speed of the video analysis compared to
VCR tapes was probably the biggest
impact, Vellacott said. Due to the time
taken and the quality of the VCR tapes,
about 50 percent of disputes could not
be resolved with the old system. It is
now greater than 95 percent with the IP
video system. Providing fast and reliable
evidence to confirm or contradict
customer disputes creates a better customer
service environment and avoids
The nature of many incidents in gaming
may hinge on a few frames of information.
IP video systems allow casino
staff to review full frame rate footage forward
and in reverse, in real time, at slow
speeds and frame-by-frame. These kinds
of tools are necessary to hone in on necessary
evidence. Digital zoom features
also are important to enhance the event or
person in question.
Why Use Analog?
More than 85 percent of casinos still use
analog and VCR/DVR systems, and the
investment still lies in equipment and
coax wiring. IP video systems provide
components that allow step-by-step
upgrade to digital as budgets allow, creating
a hybrid system in the meantime. This
is done by using transmitter/receiver
modules that connect existing cameras
and convert analog video to MPEG-4 or
H.264 compressed digital for transmission
over the network.
“The modules also can be used to
convert the digital video back to analog
for display on existing TV monitors,”
Vellacott said. “This approach allows a
hot transition whereby the digital system
is installed in parallel to the existing
system with no camera feeds being
lost while the system is commissioned
IP video will have a smaller footprint,
typically taking up about 25 percent of the
floor space of an analog-based system.
Environmentally, IP video also is a better
solution, consuming less power, generating
less heat and requiring less cooling.
IP video solutions can be fully integrated
to include other systems such as
access control, intruder security and POS
and can consolidate all alarms from these
systems within the IP video management
software. A tight integration between systems
can bring benefits to the end user.
When an attempted intrusion is detected at
an emergency exit door, alarms are triggered
whereby a map is displayed on a
video-viewing workstation that shows the
location of the intrusion and displays video
from the nearest CCTV camera that has
been automatically panned to that event.
Powerful alarm handling features are
already built into the software that allow
the operator to monitor the situation after
the incident is displayed upon alarm. This
also provides a more efficient operator
environment that leads to quicker response
while allowing the operator to focus
directly on the gaming