Doubling Down

Doubling Down

Stones Gambling Hall protects patrons and neighborhood with HD video cameras

In the world of casino card games, opportunity for slight-of-hand is abound. Dealers and players are trading palm-sized chips, swapping cards from the deck, cashing out winnings. The action is fast-paced, the stakes are high and the pressure on security staff to keep a sharp eye out is enormous. It is why casinos rely on critical support from video cameras to closely monitor every interaction on the floor, in the cage and in the money-counting back room.

Stones Gambling Hall is a prime example. When the Sacramento (Citrus Heights) card house and entertainment center opened its doors in 2014, the saloon- style decor included a discrete array of more than 200 high-definition network video cameras from Axis Communications managed through an integrated Genetec Security Center VMS platform.

Stones Gambling Hall features two state-of-the-art card rooms: the Saloon, which centers on Northern California poker for seasoned pros and recreational players, and the Tavern which hosts other popular card games such as blackjack, baccarat and pai gow. The property includes a private event room and a tavern fare restaurant and bar. Designed to evoke a frontier-era California saloon, the owners placed great importance on the video cameras blending in with the aesthetics to maintain the casino’s trademark atmosphere.

CREATING ROBUST, UNOBTRUSIVE SURVEILLANCE

Stones hired CCS, a full-service surveillance and data systems integrator out of Long Beach, Calif., to design and install a highly responsive surveillance system that would capture the action in high-definition video. The solution drew on a wide portfolio of Axis fixed and PTZ network cameras and mounting options that could address the unique challenges in various areas of the casino.

“We have Axis cameras above each table that provide multiple directional overviews. We’ve set the PTZ cameras on schedules that we can modify at any time,” said David Gray, IT manager for Stones Gambling Hall.

The high-definition cameras record full detail of the card games and the money- counting areas. Because the cameras can be adjusted remotely, the casino can quickly change views to monitor specific areas such as a popular game table. Shift managers watch the cameras live 24/7 and are able to direct floor security in real time to specific locations of concern. They can review archived footage to investigate customer complaints or scrutinize questionable dealer/player interactions.bn

Adaptability has been paramount to the solution. For instance, the card tavern section has a 30-foot vaulted ceiling with exposed trusses. The initial plans called for a camera model with interchangeable lenses to be mounted in the ceiling. Ultimately, the CCS team went with an AXIS P3346-V Network Dome Camera, a camera model equipped with remote focus and zoom that they were able to mount eight feet lower than originally planned. Even though the HDTV 1080p camera had a narrower focal length than the first option, the lower mounting height enables the cameras to capture the same area with greater resolution. This revised approach enabled the casino to avoid dropping the cameras from a truss and having to use conduit, which would have spoiled the property’s aesthetics.

The mixed lighting at the entrances and exits presented another challenge. In those areas, CCS opted to install AXIS P3384 Dome Network Cameras with Wide Dynamic Range-Dynamic Capture to balance out the contrast between indoor and outdoor lighting. For facility choke points and certain high-limit gaming tables, CCS installed discrete AXIS P12 Series Network Cameras. The installation team used various customized mounting methods, including inside the displays on the high-stakes game tables, to conceal the cameras and provide a “dealer’s eye view” of the table which would allow management to observe what the players are doing with the cards in their hands.

“One of the benefits of using Axis is that the company offers a really broad product portfolio with dozens of different camera types, attachments and mounting assemblies,” said Ryan Gleason, project manager for CCS. “We could choose the best model for each particular instance given the aesthetics, the location and what our customer is trying to see.”

In addition to the cameras and video management platform, CCS implemented multiple security measures to prevent unauthorized access to the cameras and the stored video.

“The camera network is segregated on its own VLAN off of the in-house network,” Gleason said. “We put ACLs, MAC filtering and other protocols in place to make sure that video traffic isn’t exposed to the Internet.”

CCS also instituted a number of failover measures for power, storage and network infrastructure. “The system is fairly well redundant,” said Gleason. “We built it in such a way that will allow that redundancy to grow with the system.”

Since all the cameras already include 32-gigabyte SanDisk memory cards, CCS anticipates implementing active card storage management with the next Genetec Security Center release. This will give Stones another layer of protection in case of archive failure.

Like all casinos, Stones is required by law to retain all its video for periodic auditing by the Department of Justice. To accommodate all the video generated by the 1080p and 720p highdefinition camera, CCS set up a server farm of three Dell servers with more than 120 terabytes of storage.

ADJUSTING VIEWS ON THE FLY

Stones operates 24/7, so sending technicians onto the floor to fine-tune cameras would be disruptive and inevitably affect revenue. Therefore, it was important for CCS to design a solution that could be remotely monitored, controlled and adjusted on the fly. With AXIS Q6045 PTZ Network Cameras, the IT team can log into the Genetec system and quickly change views if one game table draws a large crowd or an incident occurs somewhere in the facility. If the casino adds a new game table, IT can make remote adjustments to the focus and digital PTZ of the cameras already in place to ensure that all views comply with local, state and federal gaming regulations. IT can adjust also camera two-way audio levels remotely to improve the clarity of recordings.

“I work closely with all the managers and the owners to get the views they need on a daily basis so that they can do their jobs,” Gray said.

Knowing that the casino video can be audited by the DOJ at any time, Gray pays particular attention to optimizing camera angles to capture such details as die cuts on game markers or the denominations of paper money.

“The user interface from the web browser is extremely easy to navigate. It’s basically point and click,” Gray said. “I find it’s pretty simple to change color saturation, iris opening, field of view, zoom and focus.”

SIMPLIFYING IRS REPORTING

The cameras and the VMS are built on open standards so CCS was able to integrate a custom application that could help the casino comply with IRS reporting regulations while minimizing the tedious paperwork for their clientele. The program links directly to the video cameras so that management can take snapshots of any transaction more than $10,000 with a touch of a button.

In other gaming establishments, customers would be required to fill out an IRS tax reporting form before leaving the casino with their money. At Stones, however, CCS was able to integrate a button-activated trigger into the I/O port of the P3364 Network Camera that directs the camera to snap a series of photos and create an event in the Genetec Security Center VMS. Security staff can then use those images to document the required IRS information for the customer so they can gain quicker access to their winnings.

The snapshot application is also used to alert security guards to the presence of gamblers on the statewide casino exclusion list so that they can be discreetly escorted off the premises. The application is used to recognize self-registered problem gamblers and help them curtail their activities.

“Everything we do is based around customer service, and it really reflects in our casino’s integrity and our day-today operations,” Gray said. “As long as the customers are happy, we know that they’ll come back.”

BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR

Having a robust casino surveillance system has benefited the neighboring community as well.

“We’re able to assist our local police department with camera footage of thefts, break-ins and other incidents in our general vicinity,” Gray said. “With our high-definition video cameras we’re able to not only ensure the safety of our patrons, but also our neighbors. It’s really become a plus for our city.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.

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