Companies assist gaming operators in securing access to high-risk casino areas      

A woman accesses Morse Watchmans KeyWatcher cabinet, which safeguards against lost or stolen keys via its rugged steel cabinet with highly illuminated key slots.

When it comes to securing their premises, gaming companies don’t believe in gambling. High risk areas within and surrounding casino properties are being equipped with state-of-the-art access control systems that minimize risk of a security breach.

In August, Route 66 Casino, a Laguna Development Corp. property located in Albuquerque, N.M, announced its deployment of the Cisco Physical Security Solution to centralize surveillance, reduce operational expenditures and streamline accessibility to information for its security needs.

Casino executives at any of three associated locations can log into the Cisco system to get a real-time view of any part of a facility from any angle using pan-tilt-zoom cameras. In addition, managers have one-touch ability to determine which casino and hotel employees have access to the various elements of the security.

Route 66 Casino can extend video surveillance and physical security services to new business locations without creating new networks and separate infrastructures. At the same time, the system enables it to centrally manage physical security and optimize human resources and operation staffing levels. Security personnel have full hardware redundancy and fail-over recorders, and managers can assign user rights so that non-gaming employees are able to view only limited content, per federal law.

The Cisco system replaces an analog system with videocassette recorders and VHS tapes, which required personnel to physically change tapes often. If an employee neglected to change a tape at the correct time, valuable information was lost and there was the risk of overwriting information. In addition, if material needed to be retrieved, many hours were spent forwarding and rewinding tapes to get to a specific spot in the coverage.

“The Cisco system allows us to reduce the amount of time it takes our employees to search for a specific time frame of coverage. What literally took us hours to locate on our old-fashioned VHS tapes now takes us only minutes with our video recorders,” said Edward Khader, director of information technology at Laguna Development Corp.

Casinos are installing access control hardware and software that run the gamut of high-tech solutions, including biometrics, video surveillance, and sophisticated door locking mechanisms. Starting with the perimeter of the property, the controls get tighter as one approaches areas off limits to the public.

“Casinos deploy higher levels of security around house areas than they do around the outer areas,” said Beth Thomas, product marketing manager at Honeywell Systems Group. “The highest risk areas, such as the count room, are where the most sophisticated systems are put in.” 

Honeywell’s Win-Pak integrates access control with video and intrusion detection to create a more robust platform with increased functionality.

Integrated access control

Honeywell’s Win-Pak integrates access control with video and intrusion detection to create a more robust platform with increased functionality. By combining access control, digital video and intrusion detection, Win-Pak offers scalability, capability and control.

“We’re moving toward an integrated model with video and access control events, so that if an alarm goes off, you can go the access control system and pull up live video showing what would have triggered the event,” said John Smith, senior marketing manager at Honeywell. “Without that capability, you’d have to go back and scan the entire surveillance video.”

Win-Pak improves security by eliminating user code sharing and by using a unique card to disarm a system and grant access at the door. It allows users to retrieve and play back alarms associated with intrusion and access control. Automated reporting allows users to send up-to-date reports on intrusion and access events hourly, daily, weekly or monthly.

Its integration simplifies the access process by allowing users to arm or disarm the system with a card. If a user is granted access to a building but doesn’t have the authority to disarm the system, the integrated solution can deny access and therefore prevent a false alarm.

Casinos typically use a combination of security technologies which increase as one moves from public to house areas. “The hotel, for example, will have low end mag-stripe access systems for guests and some of public areas,” said Dave Herrington, casino sales manager at Honeywell. “The cage area, on the other hand, needs higher security such as a mantrap, which ensures that only one door can be open at any one time.”

One major Las Vegas casino uses Honeywell’s system to enable simultaneous viewing, recording, playback, transmission and archiving of video and audio streams from multiple locations. If a manager needs to investigate a discrepancy with a customer, he or she can do so in real time. In addition to faster reviews, the digital system provides flexibility in viewing footage: Operators can choose combinations of monitors to view and display them all on one screen. Another advantage is the space - or lack thereof - that the system occupies. Because there are no VCRs and no tapes, the equipment

room was built smaller than traditional analog surveillance rooms but feels more spacious.

If a customer claims that a dealer took his push bet, the casino can immediately review footage to see what happened. In the past, a casino would have spent an hour going through tapes to find the incident. The digital system provides instant access to footage, which means better customer service.

Compliance mandates

In the Native American market, Gold River Casino and Silver Buffalo Casino, both located in Anadarko, Okla., are using DVTel’s Latitude Network Video Management System (NVMS).

Gold River Casino’s installation, completed in early 2008, comprises approximately 200 cameras; in its first three months of operation the system has delivered excellent video quality while meeting all the requirements of the National Indian Gaming Commission. Video surveillance covers areas with slot machines and the gaming tables. The Silver Buffalo Casino has upgraded and expanded its advanced video surveillance system utilizing the DVTel Latitude NVMS. More than 100 cameras monitor the gaming areas, sports bar, and all other areas associated with handling money.

Silver Buffalo contacted systems integrator Alliance Systems Group when the casino opted to expand its offerings by opening the city’s only sports bar and grill.

Alliance Systems Group was called not only to expand the size of Silver Buffalo’s system but to upgrade it to DVTel’s new Version 5 software, said Tanya Botone, Silver Buffalo’s director of surveillance.

Casinos are subject to strict regulations that require devices be connected to the entrance of each count room, which signal the monitors of the closed-circuit television system whenever the door to the count room is opened, and that also require a mantrap, which prevents the entrance and exit doors from opening simultaneously.

Mantraps reduce the risk of unauthorized persons entering secure areas by allowing only one door to be open at a time; unlocking one door automatically secures all other doors. “Mantraps thwart illegal entries through one door while another is open,” said Bryan Sanderford, national sales manager of Dortronics, a manufacturer of secure entry systems.

For faster traffic flow, a single door of a two-door mantrap may be left unlocked. A request for access at the secured door will cause the unlocked door to be secured. Once both doors are secured, the request for access is granted. The Dortronics setup employs traffic indicator lights: A green light indicates that access is permitted, while a red light signals that the other door is open and access is denied at this door. The system is capable of controlling up to 99 doors grouped into any number of mantraps.

Key to security

Technology is also at the forefront of another sensitive area: access to keys. Morse Watchmans’ KeyWatcher provides a solution to access control, safeguarding against lost or stolen keys. Built into a rugged steel cabinet with highly illuminated key slots, KeyWatcher makes it easier to locate keys and maximize wall space. The exterior design of the cabinet has been enhanced to blend in with office environments, while the key control system seamlessly controls and monitors keys.

A tamper-proof mechanism triggers an alarm if a user tries to gain access to or dislodge a key with force, the door is left open for more than 10 seconds, or a key is missing or not returned on time. If invalid user code is entered three times consecutively, the system shuts down for four minutes.

Keys are secured to a Smart Key locking mechanism and memory chip, which provide additional security and functionality for the key management systems. When a Smart Key is inserted into a key slot, the memory chip data is stored and then retrieved after a key is properly accessed.

A random key return feature allows users to return keys to any open location of the cabinet and the system will remember the new location for that key. This process avoids the confusion and error of misplacement of keys upon return.