How new cameras and sound advice helped enhance security and surveillance at a Washington state casino

Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Wash.

The “eagle eyes” have landed at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Wash., and director of surveillance Miguel Grijalva couldn’t be happier.

New megapixel video surveillance cameras installed in the casino this spring provide a sharper image, and that can mean all the difference in resolving or clarifying issues at the gaming tables, Grijalva said.

Sourced from North American Video (NAV), Brick, N.J., the new megapixel cameras “were installed to improve image resolution issues we were experiencing with conventional analog cameras,” Grijalva explained. “It is important that our surveillance operators can clearly see the indexes of the cards; to be able to unerringly view the suits and ranks and be able to distinguish between a heart and a diamond. The analog cameras we were using were not picking up enough detail.”

With their improved resolution, the megapixel cameras (which have been available since mid-2007) provided the detail needed to track and verify what was actually happening at the Lucky Eagles gaming tables.

Located next to the Chehalis Indian Reservation halfway between Olympia, Wash., and Portland, Ore., the Lucky Eagle has an extensive table game floor. Heavy on blackjack, the casino stages blackjack tournaments every Tuesday evening with a large monthly prize. The floor also offers roulette, craps, and specialty card games including Spanish 21, Pai Gow Poker, Three-Card Poker, and several variations on Texas Hold’em.

Add in a large slot floor, a bingo hall and an attached hotel and the Lucky Eagle’s security detail covers a lot of ground.

When Grijalva explained his needs, NAV determined that only a camera providing high-definition (HD) levels images would do. It recommended Arecont Vision’s AV2100M 2-megapixel IP cameras, which record images at the rate of 24 frames per second with a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 and a minimum illumination of only 0.1 lux at F1.4.

On of the latest additions to Arecont’s MegaVideo line, the AV2100M incorporates proprietary patent-pending technology that mitigates the cost and frame rate shortcomings often associated with multi-megapixel camera systems used in video surveillance, noted Cynthia Freschi, NAV president.

 To ensure image clarity, the AV2100M delivers full motion HDTV progressive scan resolution and also features Power-over-the-Ethernet (PoE) for more cost-effective operation.

No analog cameras were replaced by the megapixel IP cameras, which were installed to supplement the system already in place. According to Grijalva, the megapixel cameras’ HD resolution allows for wider shots, and thus only one megapixel camera was required over each table.

“The frame shot is the same as the analog camera’s frame shot, but the clarity is several times better,” he said. “If a player had a full flush, we can go back and readily confirm it because the picture quality is so excellent.”    

Officials at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Wash., have been pleased with the results after following North American Video’s recommendation to employ Arecont Vision’s megapixel surveillance cameras.

Another feature of the AV2100M is a built-in electronic PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) function that the Lucky Eagle’s surveillance operators found very advantageous. Using the digital zoon feature in live monitoring or reviewing footage helped the casino spot unusual activity, instances of suspicious behavior or cheating, or verification of employee procedure compliance.

Casino surveillance operators reported no problems in adjusting to the hybrid system, describing the new cameras as user-friendly and requiring no training to operate.

The analog camera systems remain and integral part of the Lucky Eagle’s video surveillance system because they allow a higher frame rate (30 frames per second) that is ideal of recording fluid motion. In the enhanced system designed by NAV, Arecont’s megapixel cameras are recorded at 5 frames per second, thus allowing reduced file sizes and storage requirements.

NAV previously installed the Lucky Eagle’s video surveillance and security system, which included the network video recorders (NVRs), which made it easier for them to incorporate the megapixel cameras into the casino-wide network. To assure that the new cameras would mesh well with the existing network, NAV set up a test installation in the casino for several weeks so the casino staff could evaluate it.

“Megapixel cameras can provide superior detail over conventional CCD cameras when configured properly on the systems level,” Freschi explained. “But it’s not just a matter of plugging a megapixel camera into your network without making other adjustment. There are several factors that impact the overall performance in a real world systems application versus evaluating performance from spec sheet data – specifically the frame rates for viewing and recording HD images and bandwidth allocation.”

With good lenses and lighting, megapixel cameras can even detect a nick in the side of a card (indicating a player is trying to “mark” them), Freschi said.

The differences between the two types of cameras became immediately apparent as Grijalva noticed on the new cameras additional details on the roulette wheel and could count the number of chips in a stack.

Once assured that the Lucky Eagle was pleased with the performance of the additional cameras, NAV implemented the enhancements within a three-month window, Grijalva said.

“It was a team effort with NAV designing the system and commissioning the network, and our crew installing the cameras,” he added. “It wasn’t a big rip and replace because we had CAT 6 cable already installed. Nor did we have to replace any of our control room hardware such as the matrix switch or the NVRs. That the megapixel IP cameras operated over PoE made installation very easy, so the overall installation was completely transparent and there was no down time.”

Now when operators respond to a request to review a game play, they automatically review the enhanced digital recordings first. The new megapixel cameras, Grijalva said, definitely help in determining if a customer’s claim is valid, or if he was shortchanged on chips, so the game can resume more quickly than in the past.

Lucky Eagle is considering adding additional megapixel cameras to the lobby entrances for facial recognition, and thus spot known thieves, pickpockets or other problem people before they can ruin other customers’ fun. Another potential use of megapixel surveillance cited by Freschi include license plate recognition in casino parking lots, both for increasing security for customers and in capturing images that result in quick apprehension of miscreants.

“NAV originally designed a scalable and flexible system for us, and as our needs grow we can easily add to our system,” Grijalva noted.

NAV president Freschi agreed with the Lucky Eagle’s choices.

“Even standard megapixel cameras offer significant imaging advantages and can be very cost effective when used judiciously on any video surveillance system platform,” she explained.

To better serve its casino industry customers, NAV maintains regional offices in Las Vegas; Horn Lake, Miss.; Arlington, Wash.; Caracas, Venezuela; and Macau.