Keeping a Closer Eye on the Store
by James J. Hodl
April 1, 2009
An employee watches over the casino floor from the surveillance control room at Wyandotte Casino in Oklahoma. The casino is among those using Panasonic Security Systems solutions.
Latest surveillance technologies enable casinos to collect more information and stop trouble before it begins.
casinos, “keeping an eye on the store” can mean covering a lot of ground.
Casinos and their adjoining hotels and/or resort complexes have become quite
expansive, prompting the use of whole batteries of surveillance cameras and
equipment to maintain a safe and secure environment for guests.
This constant watching to keep out undesirables (thieves, cheats, rowdies, etc.) who can ruin the exciting and pleasurable atmosphere has long been performed by closed-circuit cameras, video monitors and recording devices. But as the problem people get more sophisticated, so must casino surveillance equipment. And manufacturers are moving quickly to give casinos the new tools they need to adequately do the job.
This has resulted in several major surveillance trends.
The greatest trend in casinos is the move from analog to digital technology, which has picked up steam within the last year.
Digital systems, which employ equipment that captures higher-resolution images (240 lines on analog, compared to 520 lines on digital), capture more detail on faces, license plates numbers, even playing cards. Digital images can be stored more compactly on digital video recording equipment than on analog VCRs.
“More than half of all casinos have currently switched to digital surveillance technologies. And nearly all Native American casinos have gone digital,” said Dr. Bob Banerjee, product manager at Bosch Security Systems.
One such operation that recently switched to digital surveillance equipment was Canterbury Park Racetrack and Card Club, Shakopee, Minn.
According to Chris Potter, director of security at Canterbury, the analog equipment backed by VCRs it has long used had become obsolete. The old system frequently tied up the time of Canterbury’s 10 security people, as it could take substantial time reviewing multiple tapes to find a theft suspect on the gaming floor, or to simply locate the image needed to settle an on-floor dispute.
By upgrading to digital technology, specifically the Honeywell Enterprise NVR Series system from Honeywell Video Systems, Canterbury’s security people can react to on-the-floor incidents faster. Because the system enables personnel to locate in less time the video of the incident, they can track the miscreant and potentially collar him while still on premises, and better save the video for use at the trial.
The digital system also helps Canterbury comply with rules of the Minnesota Racing Commission concerning the handling of an injury on the racetrack. Cameras monitoring events in real time can instantly alert personnel to where the accident occurred so that an ambulance and other help personnel can be quickly dispatched. And the system records the incident to later prove to the Commission that everything necessary was done quickly and by the book.
Honeywell’s Enterprise NVR (Network Video Recorder) is a video management system designed for inputs from digital surveillance cameras. Enterprise servers enable simultaneous recording, playback, live viewing, archiving a transmitting digital video on request to another on-premises workstation. The NVR system can receive and record up to 32 channels of video, and can save user-selected video clips as a watermarked and tamper-resistant Safe Data Container.
A Panasonic camera keeps close watch over a table games area at Wyandotte Casino.
The i-Pro WJ-ND400 NVR Series from Panasonic Security Systems can record up to 64 network cameras simultaneously with multi-format recording in MPEG-4 and JPEG to deliver recording performance ideal for modern high-resolution IP (Internet Protocol) cameras. The system offers metadata-associated VMD for quick searches for desired image clips, and up to four-times zoom on live or recorded images. The linked cameras can be directed through this system to change brightness and focus, and to pan, tilt and zoom. Up to 16 security people can monitor and control the WJ-ND400 simultaneously.
Another trend is toward megapixel cameras, which can provide video images with substantially better resolution.
Sanyo Security Products, which is concentrating its developmental efforts on extending its security camera line that provides IP-based solutions, last August introduced the VCC-HD4000 camera. According to, said Bill Lawrence, vice president of security products at Sanyo, this camera is the first to bring 30 IPS full HD video to casino security.
“At 4-megapixels resolution, picture quality is equivalent to that of a full high-definition television, which enables casinos to increase the coverage area of a single camera without sacrificing picture quality,” Lawrence said. Features include a built-in optical zoom lens that retains resolution as it zeroes in on a specific face or subject, showing all details even at the maximum 160x zoom. This feature also enables pictures to be enlarged to the same 160x without losing details.
The VCC-HD4000 captures objects in vivid colors in daylight, and becomes a highly-sensitive black-and-white camera in nighttime’s dimmer illumination. The camera is programmed to zero in on human faces and brings them into clear focus by automatically adjusting for ambient lighting. Lenses are fine-tuned at the factory for distortion-free image capture and are smear-proof.
Sanyo also plans to bring to market a dome version of its mega-pixel camera in the near future.
Several models of megapixel cameras ranging in resolution from 1.3 to 3.1 megapixels also are offered by Bosch Security Systems.
Model NWC-0900 is a dual-sensor camera that automatically adjusts for day and night surveillance. During daylight, the camera provides color images at 3.0 megapixels resolution, but after sundown becomes a monochrome camera providing images at 1.3 megapixels. Features include the ability to pan, tilt and zoom in on the action through remote direction. To save bandwidth over the Ethernet link and as images go into the video recording system, users can adjust resolution and frame speed. But when the highest resolution is required, the cameras can pick up minute details, such as a dropped wallet on the floor or a license plate number on a distant automobile.
The Honeywell Enterprises/ MaxPro VMS (Video Management System).
Divar XF also is a hybrid platform that will support eight or 16 analog inputs and up to eight H.264 IP digital inputs.
Storage space in recorders is better used with use of Bosch’s Video Recording Manager (VRM).
“With most systems, video images flow into dedicated video recorders. But as images come in with different resolutions and/or frame speeds, recorders fill up at different rates. At the end of the day, one recorder may still have recording space unused while the other, having reached their maximum, have begun recording over images from the beginning of the recording cycle,” noted Banerjee.
“VRM dumps all video inputs into a ‘single bucket,’ but allocates storage as it comes in. As one recorder fills up, it switches to the next recorder. There is thus no wasted storage space on any recorder in a casino security department’s battery,” he explained.
Yet another trend is the need to stop miscreants before they commit acts against guests that require trips to court.
Security personnel can react more quickly to keep undesirable people out of the casino when using the iGWatch Facial Recognition System offered by iView Systems, Oakville, Ont.
Instead of security people flagging a suspicious person seen entering on a surveillance camera and flipping through mug books to verify the match, iGWatch automatically checks the person’s face against stored images, said Martin Drew, iView president. The scanning and checking process is performed instantaneously, allowing security to intercept the verified miscreant before he has time to vanish inside the casino, and escort him out.
The system, which seamlessly integrates with iView’s iTrak Incident Reporting and Risk Management System, also can be used to flag problem gamblers, and even the good guys by alerting employees to high rollers to provide them instant recognition and service.
Facial Recognition Software also is one of the integrated programs in the Visual Casino Suite marketed by Biometrica. Using this program, security personnel can direct surveillance cameras to capture an image of a suspected person, then search existing databases to see if he matches any known persons the casino would like to keep out. Once a match is made, security people on the floor are alerted to direct the person off premises.
Not all trends in surveillance equipment involve security purposes. The IDM People Counter from Honeywell Video Systems works with a casino’s surveillance network to provide casinos with instant access to information on customer and vehicle traffic. These data can then be used in making timely decisions to enhance customer service, optimize staffing and implement successful on-premises marketing programs, said Dave Herrington, casino sales manager with Honeywell.
IDM, which can be easily integrated with Honeywell’s Enterprise video surveillance system, automates the gathering of data related people entering and exiting a specific area of the casino. With such information, casinos can ensure optimal venue layout and traffic flow and identify peak traffic times to effectively manage when on-site shops and restaurants are open, and more accurately schedule staff and maintenance crews. Because IDM compiles customer counts by the week, day or even per half-hour, and distinguishes between loitering with those moving in and out of the area, casinos can get instant evidence if a current promotion is attracting the desired business, Herrington said.
The system can be used both inside a casino and in outside areas like porte cocheres, reception areas and parking garages.
James J. Hodl
is a Chicago-based freelance writer covering the gaming industry. He can be contacted at +1 773 777 5710; or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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