Defining Performance Criteria

Defining Performance Criteria

Integrating the right equipment for each surveillance goal

There are good reasons that video surveillance is mandated for any casino operation by both federal and state gaming authorities – it has proven to be an effective tool to help ensure safety, accountability and lawful behavior in the gaming industry. That said, casinos and gaming resorts have a wide range of surveillance challenges, and therefore the video surveillance system needs to be a sophisticated and effective blend of cameras, video storage and video management to deliver the required levels of performance.

Quality Performance

For example, a typical casino has multiple entrances, in a range of styles from doorways to wide openings, all open to the public virtually 24/7. The gaming areas themselves range from table games, where both the staff and the players must be well-covered, to banks of electronic games, where the focus has to be on both players and anyone else present or passing through the area.

All cash-handling locations, including the cashier’s cage and the back office areas, must also be carefully watched to maintain control. Every one of these areas has different surveillance system performance requirements because of the specific distances, lighting, visibility and objectives at each location.

With casino operations being the core revenue generator driving gaming facilities, surveillance operations typically take a high priority relative to budget allocation, levels of performance and scope of operations. Casino owners and management select, install and deploy advanced surveillance systems to address the various needs of each area in the casino environment, in partnership with an expert surveillance systems integrator familiar with casino regulations and operations.

Here are several key casino areas that drive the performance criteria for surveillance systems.

Table Game Surveillance

The expression “the hand is quicker than the eye” holds special meaning for casino surveillance staff, as professional cheats have engineered clever ways to conceal means of stealing chips, manipulating cards, changing bets and so on. But cameras don’t blink, especially high-resolution IP fixed and PTZ cameras designed to meet specific gaming regulations that combine fast frame rates, high resolution and low light capability.

New multi-sensor megapixel cameras with panoramic viewing capability or multiple independent adjustable lenses that can also be focused on specific coverage areas provide an extremely efficient, high performance solution to augment table game surveillance. These technologically advanced imaging solutions have proven to be very cost-effective, often doing the work of several lower resolution cameras, reducing equipment, installation and maintenance costs.

Recorded images from high resolution cameras can also supply valuable meta-data to help casino security staff locate video recordings associated with specific incidents. This functionality may be primarily used for forensic analysis after a suspected incident has occurred, but it can also provide additional advantages. For example, data-mined video can also help with predictive analysis by correlating otherwise unrelated events to warn security staff of abnormal behaviors that may indicate an impending situation. Data mining and review in the context of operating procedures could also potentially suggest operational improvements.

Gaming Machine Areas

Slot games and electronic video gambling machines are highly profitable because they generally require fewer casino staff to operate, but these gaming areas need to be monitored very carefully to meet compliance regulations, and to protect customers from unscrupulous people. Surveillance cameras in slot areas can also assist with service issues and identifying persons of interest – including both high rollers and known threats – so they can be dealt with appropriately.

Variation in lighting poses a particular challenge amongst the banks of flashing slot machines. There are many applicable imaging solutions available to monitor activities in the difficult conditions found in slot areas. A combination of PTZ cameras, 360 degree panoramic cameras or dome cameras with fixed lenses are typically deployed to deliver the necessary coverage.

But finding the right economy of scale for camera selection and placement is most critical, and often a judgement call beyond the specific imaging requirements dictated by federal and state compliance regulations. Tighter coverage areas will require more cameras, particularly as casinos densely populate slot machine areas to fully maximize gaming floor space.

New High Definition (HD) and Ultra High Definition (UHD) cameras can provide a highly effective and cost-efficient solution, providing they can be positioned for wide coverage in the target image area. Available in many different form factors, the electronic pan/tilt capabilities found in many of these cameras (or facilitated through a VMS) can provide simultaneous, real-time surveillance monitoring and recording of the full coverage area, while allowing an operator to manually pan or zoom electronically within the camera’s set field of view.

Intelligent video analytics can also be applied to better secure and monitor slot machine areas. This includes, for example, “object left behind” detection to spot suspicious packages or personal belongings left unattended by customers, people-counting analytics to gauge traffic in specific slot areas for both security and business intelligence data gathering, and facial recognition to detect known individuals, such as pickpockets and banned players, who may have evaded detection at casino entrances.

Cash Handling Areas

Cash cages, ATMs, ticket/cash redemption kiosks and back areas where chips and cash are handled all require the highest levels of video surveillance. ATMs and ticket/cash redemption areas generally use dedicated, fixed cameras monitoring all activity 24/7. Cash cages demand more attention with dedicated cameras surveilling all activities from both the customer’s and the cashier’s perspectives for documentation of each and every transaction, as well as identification of both the cashiers and customers. Surveillance for back areas requires stringent measures dovetailing with identity management and access control. These areas can involve several layers of access control technology including card/proximity readers, biometric identity confirmation and door interlock systems, or “mantraps,” to ensure only authorized staff can enter.

Surveillance cameras are typically deployed on both sides of these entry points as well as in the interior of any mantrap solution and can be integrated with access control systems. Analytics may also be applied to these cameras for an additional layer of confirmation, business information and security.

Once inside secured areas, particularly those where cash and chips are handled, surveillance cameras must be deployed to monitor all activities to capture any misappropriation of assets, and for documentation in the event of discrepancies.

Identifying Persons of Interest

One of the primary objectives of casino surveillance operations is to quickly and easily identify persons of interest. This can include known gaming cheats, individuals banned for unacceptable behavior or theft, and worse. Because the numbers of these individuals and visitors are both large, it is difficult for surveillance staff to memorize and pick out the important people without some form of assistance.

Using advanced VMS solutions, high-priority persons of interest can be put on a display in the form of a digital slideshow next to a live surveillance feed. This serves as a constant visual reminder to look for these people while making the likelihood of identifying them much higher.

Going a step further, advanced facial recognition software can be added to the cameras covering entrances to identify persons of interest and automatically notify security staff. Facial recognition software can be centralized and applied to specific cameras across the network, or implemented on the edge, as several popular brands of IP cameras feature embedded facial recognition capabilities.

These cameras also can be used to identify high rollers who may arrive at a facility unannounced, alerting casino and hospitality staff that they are present and further elevating the level of customer service these important guests receive.

As with any form of image-based analytics, image quality and consistency are critical contributors to the performance of the system. High-definition cameras with features like Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) can provide extensive scene detail and expanded coverage, even in challenging lighting conditions such as casino entrances, where lighting conditions change throughout the course of the day. The combination of VMS digital slideshows, facial recognition analytics and cameras designed for challenging lighting conditions can prove to be the most effective identification solution.

It is important to note that all activities in gaming areas need to be recorded and archived for specific periods of time, according to federal and state gaming regulations. Recording requirements may vary from one gaming location to the next, and significantly impact the design and costs of gaming surveillance operations.

Consultation with a knowledgeable systems integration company is recommended to navigate specific compliance requirements. This will help to ensure that the new system meets those requirements, and remains on budget while maintaining gaming operations.

There is no “cookie cutter” solution to deploying video surveillance cameras or surveillance functionality within a gaming facility. Each casino has its own unique nuances and potential challenges based on the nature of the clientele, physical location, layout and design, and of course, federal and state compliance regulations. Thus, each property requires an individual analysis by a professional security consultant or systems integration firm who specializes in gaming surveillance and security. This is the best way to make sure the right equipment is deployed to achieve the security and business goals of the surveillance system.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Security Today.

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