As casinos across the country begin to reopen, it’s anything but business as usual for casino management, staff and visitors. Even the Visit Vegas marketing video advertises that there’s a new Vegas for a new reality.
As casino openings get underway, a new set of challenges has set in—new regulations around building occupancy, face masking and physical distancing to name a few. Public health directives affect both staff and visitors, which means that new standards need to be met by many internal teams working together including: human resources, guest services, security, operations and maintenance.
Advanced technology such as intelligent video surveillance can significantly aid in the effort to maintain compliance and reopen safely, while continuing to provide long-term support for significantly improving operations and customer experiences once the pandemic has passed. The good news is that most casinos already have video surveillance networks. Those cameras provide footage that is primarily used to monitor the property or investigate after an incident has occurred. Therefore, adding video analysis capabilities not only exponentially accelerate investigations, but also enable casinos to easily leverage existing investments to scale and meet new safety and compliance standards.
BY WAY OF EXPLANATION…
Before diving into how video content analytics can aid casinos in reopening responsibly and efficiently and how these systems provide key benefits during and after the pandemic, it’s important to first understand what video analysis technology is and how it works.
Video content analytics (VCA) refers to a deep learning-based technological capability, which detects and identifies objects (people, vehicles and other items) and behaviors in surveillance video, and then classifies them. Once classified, objects are then indexed to drive video search, alerting and analysis for data-driven decision-making.
VCA systems complement existing camera networks by utilizing the data that is being recorded, which is often otherwise untapped. As video data is aggregated over time, video content analysis software provides business intelligence that helps operations and security staff understand trends, make decisions and develop strategies and contingency plans. While navigating new operational regulations, casinos can leverage video analytics solutions to get the most out of their video surveillance systems as they begin the reopening process that will extend into the future. In so doing, they can also identify other business areas where security and efficiency can be optimized by leveraging video intelligence beyond the new reality caused by the public health crisis. These areas of optimization include:
• Streamlining casino cleaning and maintenance. Keeping casinos clean is no small undertaking. Understanding which areas are highly trafficked is important. Video content analytics software enables operations teams to facilitate cleaning based on visitor traffic and usage, instead of traditional time-based models, for more efficient and effective property maintenance. By configuring traffic thresholds for entering certain rooms, hallways or other spaces, operators can develop alerting logic and trigger notifications to maintenance, as needed, based on actual usage. While a clean environment helps to combat the spread of COVID-19, it is also an important everyday customer experience and workplace safety consideration that casinos can now approach effectively and efficiently.
• Prevent crowding by tracking building occupancy. Indoor and outdoor facilities that are currently open are often restricted to prevent the risk of COVID transmission due to overcrowding. In order to operate, some venues are being required to prove their ability to measure and maintain safe building occupancy.
At the federal level, the CDC’s considerations for casinos and gaming operations states that, “The more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” It puts casinos in the “more risk” category if, “casinos are open but with limitations to allow social distancing and disinfection of machines between uses.” Additionally, in this category, individuals visiting a gaming property must, “Remain spaced at least six feet apart (two arms’ lengths) while seated or standing.”
Gaming communities that are moving to reopen are working to comply with their local mandates and federal guidelines. For example, Atlantic City’s website outlines a responsible, multi-phased approach to reopening that emphasizes the importance of the health and safety of its visitors. Although some restrictions have been lifted, maintaining abundant social distancing and the use of face coverings remain intact.
Meeting these compliance requirements can be a logistical challenge for casino operations and security teams. Casinos that have a video surveillance system can still find it difficult to monitor the number of people in a room or building, because there may not be enough people currently on staff to monitor all of the cameras. Furthermore, it is human nature to be inconsistent—and make occasional errors—when reviewing vast amounts of footage and making observations. Video analytics helps security teams manage all of these challenges. Building management is greatly supported through real-time occupancy tracking enabled by video analytics software, which triggers rule-based, people-count and proximity alerts when the number of individuals in a building exceeds a set threshold or the proximity between individuals is closer and for a longer duration than advised. The alerts allow managers or security staff to investigate the crowd formation and take necessary action to protect the on-site visitors and staff.
While physical distance has been a specific focus during the pandemic, crowding and queue control are not new issues for casinos and entertainment venues. Video analytics can also be used to ensure the delivery of an optimal customer experience over the long term through generating occupancy trend reports based on surveillance data. While this information can support internal auditing during the pandemic and beyond, it can also help casino management better understand where and why crowds form and use this trend data to make proactive decisions to prevent future overcrowding.
• Ensure physical distancing and mask wearing. During the pandemic, casinos must do everything they can to protect their guests. Venues must obey all local, state and federal mandates, including physical distancing and face mask wearing, which are almost universal and analyzed based on face mask and proximity identification filters. Thanks to this capability, casinos gain knowledge instantly—and over longer periods of time—on how consistently visitors and staff are complying with public health orders. This allows them to determine how best to enforce these safety measures based on actionable and quantifiable data.
• Implement employee contact tracing. The casino business is vast and complex with many interaction points between guests and staff including food and beverage, entertainment, gaming, valet, convention bureaus and more. There are many employees who regularly interact with customers. Given that public health agencies have COVID-19 contact tracing programs, and there are workplace health and safety standards, it’s now important for all organizations to be able to quickly determine which of their employees or guests may have been in contact with an infected person. Casinos can leverage video analytics to facilitate contact tracing by using a combination of facial recognition and proximity identification, which identifies when people are close to one another for a period longer than a predefined threshold. These filters can pinpoint where an infected person was and understand where that person was in relation to other employees and customers and how long they were in contact with them. The casino may then recommend that those exposed should self-quarantine.
Beyond the pandemic, it is important to note that rapid video search and contact-tracing capabilities can be leveraged for investigating crime and fraud. The ability to rapidly pinpoint individuals based on face recognition or gender and clothing filters can help casino security and local law enforcement solve cases much more quickly.
• Enhance security and business operations. In addition to use during a public health crisis, the benefits of video content analysis in casino operations are vast. For example, the security team can use the technology to fast-track incident investigations, while the marketing department can gather demographic visitor data to assist to drive marketing, merchandising and customer experience decisions and to attract new customers; meanwhile, operations personnel can quantify pedestrian and vehicle traffic patterns throughout a venue to improve flow.
By simply combining existing video surveillance systems with intelligent video content analysis, casinos will be able to get the most out of their existing camera networks. The ability to prove compliance with COVID regulations, and provide a safer, more enjoyable experience for their customers and employees is critical for the foreseeable future. And for the longer term, casinos will be able to use the technology to enhance the customer experience, accelerate security investigations, and act on valuable information from marketing and operations data, during and after the pandemic.