In The Cards

IP video surveillance technology protects Northern Europe’s biggest casino

With thousands of guests daily visiting Casino Copenhagen, money is always changing hands. And when money is the focus, so is security. Both security and service are taken very seriously at this casino, so managers have installed the most advanced IP video surveillance platform to ensure the safety of guests and employees.

There is plenty to keep track of at the facility, which was built as an extension to the Hotel Radisson BLU Scandinavia and became Denmark’s first international casino when it opened on New Year’s Eve in 1990. As of November 2009, it had 200 employees and thousands of visitors venturing to the site to try their luck with poker chips, cards and slot machines, all of which make big demands on the management to have a good overview for top service and security.

“First and foremost, just like all other casinos, we must conform to special laws and regulations that make strict demands for security and internal procedures. We furthermore want to provide the best possible service to our many customers, which includes among other things a strong focus on security,” said Jesper Frederiksen, surveillance manager at Casino Copenhagen. “For that reason, we have chosen to work with the most advanced surveillance technology available on the market.”

This technology is based on Milestone Systems’ IP video open-platform solution, XProtect Corporate. With just a few clicks, an operator controls hundreds of cameras at the same time, viewing live or archived images from different servers simultaneously. In addition, the video material is easily exported when the police want to use it as evidence.

“Previously, we worked with analog videotapes, but they were very timeconsuming, especially if you wanted historical overviews of the recordings,” Frederiksen said. “With the IP video solution, we can find precise sequences from many different angles, scroll back and forth quickly, synchronize time and zoom in for close-ups.

“The issues often have to do with who has put a chip on the table at a certain time and for a particular amount. For example, we can scroll back through the images from two cameras and angles at the same time to see video details of a hand at a table with the person that hand belongs to.”

Human Insight is an Important Parameter

If a dealer wants to resolve a disagreement between two players, he requests the pit boss to check the surveillance on a monitor near the playing area. Video images are shown simultaneously in the main control room, where security operators control the surveillance centrally and, via radio contact, click to show the exact table or players to conclude the matter in question.

Several operators have the daily responsibility for surveillance of the entire casino. In 2009, Casino Copenhagen also took control of security monitoring for the Hotel Radisson BLU Scandinavia. The video surveillance of the hotel, which was already based on Milestone software, runs on a separate server, and the cameras are connected to the casino’s internal system via a LAN cable. Today, the operators also keep an eye on the hotel’s video on a separate display from those for the casino activities. The surveillance incorporates indoor areas, the parking lots and entrances.

“I have worked in this branch for many years, so I know that technology in itself is not enough,” Frederiksen said. “The operators must also be savvy about human behavior to know exactly what kind of conduct to look for. We are very attentive to educating our operators, not just in the art of surveillance, but we also train them in all the games we offer—they have to know them at least as well as our dealers.”

It is not just disagreements and complaints about cheating that the video surveillance helps to resolve; the images are also used to ensure that all internal procedures are upheld. Recordings are used by the police as evidence. Such footage has already helped the police a number of times, which is just as much due to the camera coverage as it is to the training and experience of the casino’s operators.

Big Demands on Capacityand Quality

The Danish company Info-Connect, a certified Milestone Partner, develops and produces specialized software solutions and has installed the IT networks and surveillance system at Casino Copenhagen. According to director Rasmus Teilmann, it was imperative that the servers and storage systems be able to handle the huge capacity requirements needed for such a comprehensive video installation to function optimally. This applies not just to casinos but to any business using hundreds of cameras running at full frame rate with top image quality.

At the casino, more than 200 cameras are connected to five servers, each with a storage capacity of 10 TB. This capability is critical for the video evidence the facility archives because the recordings from the gambling tables— according to the law—must be saved for 31 days, and images from the cash transactions must be kept for 62 days. Info-Connect has installed a 10 Gb Ethernet network based on fiber-optic cables that transmit all the images to the five recording servers over which all the camera outputs are shared. On each server there is a redundant storage array with 10 TB of storage, so the casino can manage the legal requirements for archiving recordings.

The system runs at full-frame rate for live viewing and for all recordings at the gambling tables and cash transaction areas, but the frame rates are reduced for the traditional areas of surveillance such as the doorways. This means that the manned surveillance is seen live, at full speed, while the system uses as little storage space as possible and top video quality is maintained.

Technically, this is set up in separate video data streams, where the live video is shown as MPEG-4 or H.264. The archived video images are stored as MJPEGs at a frame rate determined for individual cameras. Frame rates also can be set to automatically speed up on certain cameras based on rules that trigger on certain events or occurrences, such as motion in a certain area or at a particular time.

The video is transmitted back to the monitoring stations via the fiber network. All the video encoders record with sound, as well, and this has a special advantage. For example, should a customer ask to put his money on the color red and there is a dispute, the operators can scroll back to determine precisely what occurred. Showing the results quickly resolves any disagreements between the dealers and customers.

Info-Connect designed the entire surveillance solution and maintained a close dialogue with Milestone regarding multiple integrations and tools for optimizing the performance. Info-Connect furthermore advises about ongoing upgrades to the newest platforms and features every time Milestone releases new software versions or modules. In this way, the solution is future-proof for the best return on the investment.

“The existing analog cameras from the previous system are still running, but now through the encoders so they can work with Milestone’s digital platform,” Teilmann said. “Among other things, we have also installed the fiber network that transmits all the images to the servers, where they are archived, and back to the monitoring stations in the casino, where they can be seen with the Milestone Smart Client interface. An important parameter was the full-frame rate capability providing optimal image quality and speed in the recordings. The system runs completely without any frame loss, which is especially critical when it comes to video from the tables.”

Innovative Investments that Pay Off

The law requires that all casino guests be registered. When customers arrive at the casino, a receptionist takes a photo via the guest registration software that Info- Connect has developed with the camera system. The video image is shown in the Milestone Smart Client along with other information about the customer, including his or her ticket information, in Milestone’s XProtect Transact software. This integration makes the surveillance system act as added confirmation and reacts with an alert if there is a need for it.

With the casino’s newest feature, all customers receive an access chip with RFID; the system shows guests’ photo on the surveillance screen when they go through the entrance to the casino. Security staff are able to compare the guest’s photo on the screen with the existing customer information. The intention is to avoid photo fraud and ensure fast, effective surveillance. The RFID technology is built into the guest registration software designed by Info-Connect and is fully integrated with the video software via the SDK.

The casino also is testing Axis Communications’ new HD camera model, the Q1755, which is tailored to applications such as casinos. Via automatic zoom, the camera is able to focus closely and sharply on a chip at the gambling tables, for example, and on motion the camera zooms out again to register who the guest is with that chip. This occurs in one video stream, thereby reducing the number of cameras required to record everything.

Frederiksen said he believes that digital—and intelligent—surveillance systems like this are invaluable when one considers the risks that are connected with running a casino.

“There are professionals out there who have made a career out of cheating both their co-players and the dealers,” Fredericksen said. “Our people are trained to spot these cheaters, and when that occurs we are talking about very large amounts of money. That’s why it really pays for us to invest in such comprehensive technological solutions, and that also benefits our customers in relation to security and service.”

The Danish Ministry of Justice has just extended the license for Casino Copenhagen to continue operation for another 10 years.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Security Today.

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