Casino lighting no longer compromises video clarity
- By Chris Cavey
- Feb 01, 2018
Like many gaming venues, the lighting scheme at the
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Okla., focuses on
creating an atmosphere of fun and excitement. While
this worked well for attracting patrons, it did not work
well for nearly 2,000 analog surveillance cameras trying
to protect the property. With as many as 3,000 people enjoying
the more than 2,600 electronic slots, 40 table games, poker room and
concert hall on any given day, the casino realized more advanced IPbased
cameras specifically designed to cope with the challenges of a
casino environment were needed.
“We have a number of issues to contend with,” said John Underwood,
surveillance technology manager for the Hard Rock Hotel and
Casino. “Some of the bars and nightclub areas are very dimly lit.
The concert and entertainment areas use strobes and spotlights during
shows. Some of the slot machines have LED lights that twinkle;
some have really bright strobe lights on top. Our analog cameras kept
focusing on the lights as the source of movement, not the patrons we
wanted to watch.”
The overhead lighting in the cashier area was also problematic,
washing out any visible details on bill denominations. In the parking
lots, flashing emergency lights from first responders, vehicle headlights
and exterior floodlights resulted in blurry video of little forensic
They decided it was time to turn the tables on poor surveillance
footage. The surveillance team began working with Axis Communications
on a secondary buildout using Axis network cameras capable
of compensating for any lighting condition while delivering exceptionally
high quality recordings of every casino activity. When the
new system was completely installed, they simply turned off the live
view of the old system and began running the new system.
“We never had to shut anything down during the switchover,” Underwood
said. “And we have the flexibility to gradually remove the
old cameras during off hours.”
The House Outsmarts Scammers
With so much money at stake, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa
has had its fair share of scammers looking to make an easy buck.
Thanks to the network cameras, the venue is able to catch them in
the act. Network cameras in the cashier area deliver such clarity that
it is easy to distinguish between bill denominations. In the parking
lot, cameras help to provide evidentiary quality video even with ambulances
and patrol cars flashing their lights. The auto-tracking and
auto-touring options in many of the cameras provide added safety to
staff and guests when the parking areas are less active.
Cameras have also been instrumental in helping the surveillance
department apprehend scammers trying to dispose of counterfeit
credit cards while eluding casino staff and local law enforcement.
“We’re able to track the individual with the cameras, see whether
he’s dropped the fake ID and counterfeit card in a trash receptacle or
a drinking cup or whatever,” Underwood said. “When we retrieve this
hard evidence, we can use it to successfully prosecute the individual.”
In some instances, the casino also uses the cameras’ two-way audio
capabilities to up the surveillance ante. Two primary locations are
the security holding area where suspects are detained awaiting the arrival
of law enforcement and the cashier area where interactions with
customers can be monitored for threats or misconduct.
Greater Security Coverage Made Easy
The intelligent capabilities of the network surveillance solution also
helped Underwood and his team efficiently manage and maintain
coverage throughout the hotel and casino.
“With as much activity as we have on the property, the cameras
and video analytics are essential to handling the surveillance workload,”
Underwood said. “They help us focus on the important events
and provide the evidentiary footage we need for prosecution and liability
In the food service areas, the casino uses network cameras to
monitor safety and food prep issues. The ultra-discreet fixed mini
dome provides a 360-degree panoramic view.
“Because of the wide field of view, we can use fewer cameras and
still feel confident that we’re able to document any type of misconduct
or accident,” Underwood said. “It allows us to be proactive in
any litigation that might arise.”
Additional cameras in the warehouse are used to verify that the
incoming pallets match the quantity of product listed on the bill of
lading. Underwood’s team installed the cameras in horizontal mode
to monitor the dock doors and in Axis’ Corridor Format to look
down the warehouse racks where product is pulled and distributed to
The casino also uses cameras in its food and beverage department,
tying video to the live ticketing at the point of sale.
“This helps us track whether employees are providing the right
discount to customers or ringing up discounts they shouldn’t,” Underwood
said. “It also shows us whether the product being delivered
is actually what’s being rung up.”
Insight Over the Entire Operation
Tulsa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has expanded its use of camera
footage beyond safety and loss prevention. With the advent of video
analytics such as heat mapping, the surveillance team is able to share
valuable insights about prime real estate within the casino.
“We can show the marketing department or the gaming department
or the food service people where people are congregating most
frequently, where foot traffic tends to bottleneck,” Underwood said.
Having hard data at their fingers allows the casino to make better
informed decisions about where to place new food venues or retail
shops, or when to reconfigure floor layouts to ease congestion.
“The business intelligence they get out of the video helps them
plan more objectively and more logically than
they might otherwise have by just basing their
decisions on a walk-through of the casino,” Underwood
said. “So they can use the information
to help grow our overall business.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Security Today.