The changes to the economic climate over the past few years have impacted the construction industry as a whole, and the once-booming casino industry was not spared.

While there are still new casinos being built around the country, overall the scale of construction does not approach the mega-casinos that have dominated the industry for the previous 20 years. Many of the new builds today are smaller casinos with different budgets and requirements of past projects. In addition, existing casinos are choosing to upgrade their current properties in lieu of building additional properties. The good news is, for integrators who take the right approach to this changed marketplace, there is still plenty of opportunity to be found.

Adapting To Smaller Systems
The technology of IP networks makes new and upgraded systems especially attractive in a tight economy, making it possible to create any size system cost efficiently-and, for the integrator, profitably. Utilizing network infrastructure can eliminate the need to install an individual coaxial cable to each camera, and network technologies can be more easily scaled to the specific application. For instance, centralized computer storage takes the place of multiple DVRs, and software offers additional flexibility to manage video at an operator’s workstation.

Another key point for integrators when dealing with smaller systems is that these customers may require a greater commitment of service resources. Smaller casinos are less likely to have in-house expertise and are therefore more dependent on their integrator. Servicing several smaller systems requires that the integrator devote more labor and resources than needed to service a single large system, and service level expectations may be higher as well. Upgrading installed systems requires that integrators accommodate existing infrastructure and technology, which can be more labor-intensive than starting from scratch. To deal profitably with these demands (and the associated smaller budgets), integrators should identify additional efficiencies in their own operations that will enable them to provide customers the best possible value.

Better Internal Processes and Training
Fortunately, standardization of key technology applications in a network environment can help create simpler, more robust systems that are easier to maintain, upgrade, expand and manage. Downward pricing pressures have already compelled integrators to develop strategies to maintain the same or improved levels of service while minimizing costs. These new levels of efficiency and attention to customer needs are positive byproducts of the changing environment.

It is important to note that installation of IP-based systems requires that installers have better networking skills and be more knowledgeable about available products overall. New choices such as higher-resolution cameras provide better quality images, but require additional integrator knowledge and understanding. Issues of bandwidth and storage can arise in a system that uses megapixel video cameras, especially given the casino market’s requirements for real-time video and response. More than ever, it is critical that installers and other integrator personnel be familiar with new technologies and their optimal application. Integrator companies that continue to invest in training and professional development/certification of employees will be best equipped to adapt to the changing technology mix.

Choosing An Integrator
It’s a challenge for end-users to choose the right integrator. In the past, the sheer size and scope of certain projects tended to limit the choice of integrators to a select few. However, competition may increase in a time with fewer new major projects being shopped. If the size of the project doesn’t weed out all but the top integrators, it falls on the customer to be more careful than ever in making the choice. It is imperative that even customers with smaller jobs carefully evaluate the integrator’s skills before awarding jobs.

Competition is fierce in the changing integrator market for casino surveillance systems. With fewer large jobs, more companies are competing for business. Customers should emphasize service and experience above price when evaluating an integrator. New operational efficiencies and the advantages of networking are driving a changing environment in which the best, most experienced integrators can provide service, experience and a reasonable price. Opportunity is still strong for those who make the effort to change with the times.