Security with service

Hollywood Casino Aurora’s desire to be a customer service leader extends to its surveillance systems    


Illinois-based Hollywood Casino Aurora has upgraded its surveillance system with an integrated solution from Synectics—a decision driven as much by customer service as by security requirements.

Powered by Synectics’ Synergy command and control platform, the new system will provide 24/7 surveillance for the 53,000-square-foot Penn Gaming casino located in the Chicago suburbs.

With over 1,100 slots, almost 40 tables, including a live poker room to monitor—in addition to the property’s restaurants and hospitality areas—detecting and investigating theft, fraud and security threats is a priority for the surveillance team. But for Rob Saucedo, director of surveillance for Hollywood Casino Aurora, one of the biggest reasons for upgrading the current system is being able to support repeat business growth by enhancing customer experience.

“On average, around 3,000 guests come through our doors every day, the majority of which live locally—we are not what you might term a vacation destination casino,” Saucedo said. “Repeat business is key and that means doing everything we can to offer a high-quality customer experience in every aspect of our operations. There are several ways the new surveillance system is helping us do this.”

Utilizing Synectics’ e1600 H.264 encoders, high-quality footage from the site’s 500 plus analogue cameras is converted to digital video. With Synergy, operators can then ‘live view,’ control, record and review this footage on the IP monitor walls in the surveillance control room, and also set up customized alerts to automatically detect specific incident scenarios.

“We’ve been operating a purely DVR system for the past 10 years or so,” Saucedo said. “It facilitated high-quality image capture but had its drawbacks—for example, when reviewing any incidents we could only proceed one camera at a time. With the new system, we can review multiple cameras in real time, and up to 24 x original speed. Combined with the intuitive and user-friendly interface, this makes incident investigation a vastly simpler and speedier process. In turn, this enables us to deal with customer service issues far more efficiently—‘credit theft’ complaints being a key area. Playing credits that another guest has left on a machine is effectively theft and something we take very seriously. A guest with credits still to play may have moved away to take a call, fetch a drink or visit the restroom. For them to return and find another player has essentially spent their money is not acceptable.”

“The surveillance system upgrade ensures that our team of operators is able to investigate so quickly that we can often identify the culprit while they are still on the premises and retrieve any of the taken funds,” Saucedo added. “With multiple levels of failover protection, including Hot Swap and RAID redundancy for all recorded footage, the reassurance is also there that we will always have the data at our fingertips to investigate any claim, even in the event of any network failure. These are benefits of real value to us and our customer base.”


The surveillance upgrade is also helping Hollywood Casino Aurora with operational strategy.

“People often think gaming surveillance is entirely about fraud or theft detection,” Saucedo said. “But actually it can be a vital management tool. With our solution for example, we are able to detect scenarios such as cage lines exceeding certain lengths. This enables us to respond by informing management so that staffing levels can be adjusted to better serve our guests. Also, through Synergy’s in-built analytics and reporting functionality, we are able to easily look for trends to help inform future staffing, stock or security decisions. It all supports our goal to deliver the best experience possible for our guests.”

While the surveillance upgrade is already helping Hollywood Casino Aurora realize many immediate benefits, a crucial consideration during the specification process was system longevity—the ability to adopt emerging technologies easily and organically.

The Hollywood Casino Aurora upgrade serves two purposes; an immediate step change in capability and usability, and a step towards future expansion and enhancement.

The transition was seamless and by implementing the new Synergy system in tandem with Aurora’s existing DVR-based operations there was minimal disruption to operations and zero downtime. The property now has a solution that meets existing need, with storage capacity and a system structure that will easily accommodate further digital migration.

“We have already begun introducing IP camera technology—without doubt this is the future,” Saucedo said. “But navigating away from analog to entirely IP is not a feasible single-step process. Synergy’s open platform architecture means that we can migrate gradually, as time and budget permits. It also means that we will easily be able to introduce more sophisticated data integrations, for example to point-of-sale and player systems.”

Hollywood Casino Aurora is one of 17 Penn Gaming properties to adopt a Synectics surveillance system, and one of over 100 gaming properties worldwide.

Synectics is a Carpinteria, Calif.-based designers of integrated end-to-end surveillance control systems for the world’s most demanding security environments.
For more information, visit


I’ve just seen a face…

Facial recognition improves casino security at Casino Gran Madrid-Colon


The work of physiognomists at Casino Gran Madrid-Colon is critical to providing proper monitoring of casino gaming and, by extension, to overall casino security. Each day, it is necessary to identify, on average, somewhere between five and 25 individuals for any number of reasons. Reducing turnaround time for personal identification in the casino has been a frequent request of the security personnel and managers of such businesses for a number of years.

Today, this demand can now be met—as a result of the use of facial recognition systems incorporating video analysis.

Traditionally, to establish concrete identification in a casino took considerable time while control center operators reviewed hours of recorded video. Based on the input of Sensorvideo, an Axis Communications partner and company known for its experience in the casino industry, a facial recognition system by Herta Security was recommended for Casino Gran Madrid-Colon, a technology that would make it possible to reduce the time normally required for this complex task.


Physiognomists play a critical role in casinos. In fact, until a relatively short while ago, it only required three parties to legally open a casino in Spain: a dealer, a cashier, and a physiognomist. They are, among other tasks, responsible for monitoring all gaming that takes place in a casino. Operations involving games with real money follow specific procedures defined down to the minutest detail. Non-adherence to these protocols can result in significant losses for the establishment. For example, a simple error in a chip count or accepting a late bet that results in a winner can create a serious economic problem.

According to the Madrid Casino Gaming Regulations, in order to gain entry to gaming parlors, you have to present identification such as a driver’s license or equivalent. A casino’s need for personal identification by physiognomists is essential. It is necessary to identify individuals not authorized for access, whether they have decided to put their name on the General Register of Gaming Access Bans or they were banned from gaming establishments pursuant to gaming regulations.

There is also the need in this environment to identify the presence of VIP clients. Facial recognition technology has become a huge help in this respect with its ability to create multiple group lists.

Facial recognition is one of the least invasive biometric technologies, as the data capture is performed by camera and in general there is no direct interaction with the subject. Herta’s BioSurveillance video surveillance solution detects multiple faces in real time enabling the management of subjects at any moment, and it also enables the facility to teach the system using direct video capture.

The system installed in Casino Gran Madrid-Colón consists of three AXIS Q1604 Networked Cameras with capabilities specially designed for facial recognition, using wide dynamic range (WDR) technology that enables identification even under backlighting conditions or when bright light sources are in view. This server- based facial recognition system is fully integrated with the casino’s video surveillance setup. From the control center it provides direct facial view of the last individuals to have accessed the establishment, the ability to perform quick searches, etc.

Subjects can be entered into the system via photographs and/or recorded video—or in real time—and it even works properly in cases when only a partial view of the face is available, on subjects wearing eyeglasses and hats, and on faces at moderate angles.

In the event that the security controls require follow-up—whether internally initiated based on observed behavior or at the request of other departments—reviews are conducted in accordance with internal protocols in order to ensure maximum transparency and security in all operations.

Control of the gaming cameras is supervised by the physiognomists—who know the operation, rules, bets and payouts of every game and perform monitoring in order to ensure that everything is played out in accordance with the rules. In effect, their primary role is to assist the Gaming Department in reviewing recordings of the plays made at each gaming table, resolving any claims made by customers.


Currently the reliability rate of facial recognition systems based on video analysis is higher than 95 percent. As a result of the implementation of a system of this type at Casino Gran Madrid-Colón, used to support the work of physiognomists, the amount of time it takes to identify someone in a casino has been reduced to less than half, even at short notice and on days of peak attendance.

Chelmsford, Mass.-based Axis Communications offers intelligent security solutions that enable a smarter, safer world. For more information, visit


Looking smart

MGM Resorts International turns to Honeywell’s INNCOM technology to add safety and scale to its smart networks


MGM Resorts International is acknowledged as a leader in adopting and deploying hotel guest room technology. Its properties offer networked electronic locks for security, environmental controls for guest comfort, multiple entertainment options, refrigerated minibars for convenience, and other guest controls. But, MGM Resorts’ guests never see the robust network platform behind the scenes that powers the company’s tech leadership.

“MGM Resorts International recognized early on that it wanted to interconnect and communicate with each of its thousands of guest rooms to ensure guest safety, convenience and comfort,” said Kevin J. Fellows, director of enterprise architecture, media & guest technology for MGM. “This required an intelligent device in each room linked to a total-property converged network platform to monitor in-room systems and collect environmental data. The challenge for MGM Resorts was property size and the overall scale of its multi-property enterprise. Most of our hotels have more than 3,000 rooms. We evaluated several options and found that INNCOM was able to meet MGM Resorts’ large-property converged network requirements. INNCOM’s Deep Mesh Network wirelessly connects thousands of property door locks, thermostat controls, minibars and other systems with one highly reliable, intelligent communications platform.”

Fellows explained that INNCOM’s Deep Mesh Network is reliable for MGM Resorts’ large number of rooms and devices because of its built-in ‘intelligence.’ “The network takes standard ZigBee technology to a new level,” he said. “The Deep Mesh Network interconnects hundreds of wireless edge routers throughout each property to establish a redundant-process communication web. If a transmission from one room does not instantly reach our server, the network automatically retries through other router pathways.” This ‘multi-path’ broadcasting system design enables the Deep Mesh Network to create multiple data paths throughout the network. If one component drops out, the guest room data packet still reaches MGM Resorts’ central collection point via INNCOM’s network. This also eliminates the need to use cable to connect in-room devices.


Fellows noted that MGM Resorts’ use of a single INNCOM network at each property helps to optimize guest service and promotes efficiency in maintenance costs. “The Deep Mesh Network monitors the health of each room’s guest-facing environmental devices,” Fellows said. “The INNCOM system gathers guest room environmental device information and notifies property maintenance staff if there is a maintenance issue. This lets our engineers respond to possible maintenance issues often before guests notice them. If the problem is ongoing, we can take the room out of inventory so it can be made fully operational before another guest occupies it.”

The Deep Mesh Network at MGM Resorts’ properties communicates with multiple thermostats, third-party electronic door lock systems and minibars and still has room for more devices. “INNCOM’s ability to work with third-party tech providers simplifies our processes and enhances efficiency on infrastructure costs because we support only one network,” Fellows said. “MGM Resorts established the INNCOM Deep Mesh Network as its preferred standard platform for in-room technology based on its reliability and ability to scale to our largest properties. The platform currently supports more than 20,000 rooms and we are adding more.”

MGM Resorts utilizes INNCOM in its MGM Grand Las Vegas, The Mirage, Delano, Bellagio, and at MGM Macau in China. INNCOM installation is now underway at MGM Resorts’ Mandalay Bay.


INNCOM securely sends environmental data securely to each property’s central system. “There are many point solutions that work for small properties; MGM Resorts’ requirement is larger, and secure communication to and from our rooms is essential,” Fellows said. “INNCOM uses a secure topology designed by MGM Resorts connecting guest rooms with MGM Resorts’ central INNCOM systems. The systems monitor room environmental data messages and pass the communications across our guest room network firewalls. Just as important, the Deep Mesh Network is scalable and easy to expand.”

MGM Resorts also utilizes INNCOM’s guest room thermostats and Energy Management Systems (EMS) in many properties. “INNCOM’s EMS balances energy efficiency with guest comfort,” Fellows said. “Each of our hotels is different and the INNCOM system allows each building to maintain a unique set of operational parameters. The systems calculate optimum energy conservation and guest comfort.”

The INNCOM thermostats are the communication hub in each guest room. They collect data from the door locks, minibars, and other systems and communicate with the edge routers within each property’s Deep Mesh Network.

INNCOM by Honeywell develops and markets advanced, software-based Integrated Room Automation Systems (IRAS) for the global hospitality industry. For more information, visit


Business first

Not all surveillance is the same… here is some advice for gaming operators looking to better secure retail businesses


Video surveillance systems have come a long way from the traditional systems of years past. As technology continues to evolve video surveillance solutions are becoming more affordable for businesses of all sizes, from big box retailers and large corporate campuses to smaller mom and pop operations.

According to statistics from the National Retail Security Survey, American retailers dealt with $44 million in inventory shrink. Of that amount, 38 percent of that came from shoplifting and 34.5 percent came from employee theft. Non-retailers, including warehouses, offices and other businesses, can also use video systems to monitor customers and employees. Video surveillance can also be used for purposes other than loss prevention, such as studying customer movement through your retail setup.

There are a wide variety of IP-based video surveillance systems available from members of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). Keep these factors in mind when deciding what kind of video system is right for your business.

Camera location—If you are placing your cameras outside exposed to the elements or inside a particularly dirty environment such as an auto shop, you’ll want cameras with dust- and moisture-proof housings.

Hidden or visible cameras—Hidden cameras are best when you want to gather information or evidence without a subject’s knowledge. Visible cameras, on the other hand, can possibly deter criminal activity through their presence. Thieves, vandals or other bad actors might think twice if they know they are being watched.

Features—Do you need cameras that focus on single locations, like a bank teller station or cash register, or cameras that scan a wide area like a manufacturing floor or retail space? Many cameras come with adjustable lenses while others come with pan, tilt and zoom capability. Advanced analytics are also something to consider. There are many camera solutions that offer businesses the ability to gather valuable business intelligence data through the use of cameras equipped with analytics capabilities. Some examples of the data that can be gathered include monitoring and tracking customer and/or traffic patterns, performance of retail kiosks, facial recognition, over capacity detection and so much more.

Image quality—If you’re monitoring a small, well-lit area, a basic camera system with a lower resolution will suffice. If you’re monitoring areas with harsh lighting conditions or need a greater level of detail, consider camera systems with a higher resolution.

Data storage—Simpler security setups, such as those using a single camera, can rely on memory cards installed in the camera itself. However, those seeking a more long-term solution needing more recording capacity can opt for a dedicated network video recorder (NVR) or hosted or managed video services.

Time of day—If you are monitoring areas with low light or no light at all, you’ll want a camera equipped with infrared LEDs to accommodate for surveillance at all hours of the day.

There are many more considerations to keep in mind when deciding on a video surveillance system for your business. IP video systems enable you to view live video from cameras in multiple sites in a number of geographic locations. Some of those systems also allow for off-site monitoring, so you can view what’s happening in your place of business from the comfort of your own home or any other remote location.

Most importantly, an ESA member company can design and install a system that can integrate with your existing security systems, including door sensors, motion sensors, alarms, access control systems or whatever else you currently use in your business. Every business has different needs so be sure to consult with a professional that will meet with you to understand your goals and objectives and then customize a solution to fit your needs. is an online resource for consumers interested in electronic security powered by the Electronic Security Association (ESA), the largest professional trade association in the U.S. that represents the electronic life safety, security and integrated systems industry. For more information, visit