Winners at We-Ko-Pa

Winners at We-Ko-Pa

Casino resort plays cards right for camera quality and functionality

Members of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation have lived and worked in Central Arizona for thousands of years. Today, the 950-member Nation is located in the upper Sonoran Desert outside of Phoenix, where they own and operate several businesses, including the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort. The Casino was first established in the early 1990s in a bingo-hall style building. But, in 2017, they received approval for a new Casino project that allowed them to build a fully-fledged gaming facility. To ensure the safety of staff and visitors, it also has a new state-of-the-art video surveillance system.

In 2008, the Tribal Regulatory Agency made the decision to slowly migrate the Casino’s surveillance system to IP over time to match available funding. Unfortunately, this piecemeal approach did not go well. The Casino experienced problems due largely to the poor integration of new cameras into the existing system and the lack of compatibility between various brands.

In 2013, the Tribal Regulatory Agency took a broader, second attempt at system modernization. They deployed more cameras and began using a VMS. While the image and build quality seemed good initially, the cameras soon began to die. “We had deployed brands that seemed good, but, within three months, we had a huge swath of them that couldn’t even be rescued,” said Lee Brown, lead surveillance technician for the Fort McDowell Tribal Regulatory Agency.

When it came time to build the new facility, the Tribal Regulatory Agency, having learned from its earlier attempts, knew they had to find a vendor that wouldn’t let them down.

“We were looking for a manufacturer that had a variety of camera offerings to give us what we wanted and that also had a good reputation for quality,” Brown said. They found what they were looking for with Hanwha Techwin.

Getting the Right Camera for Every Situation
The number of cameras available from Hanwha Techwin was a key differentiator for the We-Ko-Pa Resort as it enabled them to choose the right camera for every situation. The range of options was especially important when it came time to design camera coverage for the slot floor in the new facility. This area proved to be challenging in part because it was designed to be flexible and modular. The new design allows the Casino to be dynamic in terms of where they place machines. The challenge then was how to ensure coverage of every machine even as they move around daily.

They initially considered attaching cameras to the ‘cloud’ ceiling so that they could be moved as the configuration changed. But, because it floats below a concrete ceiling, this was not possible. The Casino decided instead to use the higher resolution P series 4K cameras, and place them strategically throughout the space.

“We had to give very careful consideration to where we placed our cameras. We wanted high quality and flexibility to avoid having to reconfigure and reinstall cameras all the time. The image quality with the Hanwha Techwin cameras gave us the edge we needed to work within our ceiling constraints,” Brown said.

Today, the Casino has more than 800 Hanwha Techwin cameras, including the XNV-8080R, PNV-9080R, and PNF9010R models. According to Brown, their favorite feature is the quality they deliver at low bitrates.

“The majority of our cameras face intense and volatile lighting changes against a backdrop of complex scenery with many moving objects,” Brown said. “These cameras and the advanced WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) technology can easily be configured to accommodate these conditions without sacrificing quality or producing obnoxious data streams.”

Wisenet WAVE Supports Operators in Their Daily Activities
While part of the interest in Hanwha Techwin was based on the build and image quality of the cameras and variety of the offerings, the Casino was also drawn to the Wisenet WAVE VMS.

“We were attracted to the WAVE VMS because our virtualized server and client operating systems are 100% Linux based and the WAVE client and server applications are well supported on Linux,” Brown said. “It works exceptionally well with the Hanwha Techwin cameras and other devices, like HDMI encoders and third-party cameras.”

WAVE also helps operators with live monitoring. As part of their daily routines, operators at the Casino have to actively watch a variety of events and occurrences, including deliveries and vendors on site. In addition, they are also responsible for tracking any persons-of-interest through the Casino. Without the layout capability in WAVE, moving from camera to camera to follow a person-of-interest would be extremely difficult due to the sheer volume deployed at the Casino.

“The layout system in WAVE makes it easy for us to organize our cameras into groups. So, when an operator follows someone through the Casino, rather than thinking in terms of which camera covers which machine or specific area, they think more in terms of the geography of the location,” Brown said.

For example, if something happens in the poker room, the operator simply clicks the poker layout and is then able to look at all the poker cameras. Depending on the nature of the event, they can then drill down to get greater details by selecting a particular camera as required.

Using In-camera Analytics to Save on Video Storage
Brown was also impressed with the analytics in the cameras, particularly the ability to use them to help manage data storage. Every casino has to comply with strict retention requirements in part because forensic examination and maintaining a clear chain of custody are extremely important. At the We-Ko-Pa Resort, they have a one-week minimum retention rate with some cameras keeping video for 30 days.

When you consider the number of cameras that have been installed as well as the high-frame rate requirements, the Casino has to store massive amounts of data. Currently, they have 500 terabytes (TB) of redundant ZFS based network storage. To reduce the amount they need for video surveillance footage, they use motion-based high/low recording. “We use motion detection to save on storage. If no motion is detected in a frame, the camera is set up to record at very low quality and low frame rate. If the camera detects motion, then the recording automatically shifts to high quality mode,” Brown said.

Moving forward, the Casino is excited about future possibilities for their system, including people counting and using their WAVE VMS to make data-driven decisions. Brown said the goal is to transition from video-led surveillance to a data-centric model of situational awareness. “For us, indoor tracking and positioning is a very desirable integration. We see video becoming more of a tool for event-verification rather than the traditional human originated discovery”

For today, the Casino and Tribal Regulatory Agency aren’t the only ones who recognize the outstanding features and functionality of their new security system. The Arizona Department of Gaming, which provides specific mandates for gaming operators in the state, is also impressed. Brown said Tribal officials have even received compliments for the video surveillance system from the state inspector who was quite impressed with the image quality and the smoothness of the recordings.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Security Today.

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