Ante Up

Casino lighting no longer compromises video clarity

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 value.

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 protection.”

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 different departments.

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.

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