Security Technology Used in Casinos
a&s International | Date:
The very nature of the gaming environment, where patrons and staff intermingle and large sums of money are involved, requires best-quality video. A quality casino surveillance system is essential in resolving gaming disputes; monitoring public safety; and detecting fraud, cheating and theft.
Electronic security in casinos covers a range of products, including video survei l lance, access control, alarm systems, facial recognition biometric systems, RFID tagging, and point of sale (PoS) interfaces with video systems, said Tracy Tye, Casino Account Manager for IndigoVision. Video systems are implemented mainly to monitor, detect and deter internal theft, cheats, and any other suspicious activity. Video evidence is used for prosecution and in liability claims against the casino; access control controls staff and patron access in and around the casino property; alarm systems monitor off-limit and plant areas; facial recognition detects known cheats; and RFID tagging tracks chips and monitors betting patterns.
The most commonly used product in casino security is video surveillance, said Tye, as it provides live video monitoring of the casino and back-of-house areas, as well as video recording. Essentially, video cameras are connected to a system of monitors and recorders. Operators use a control device (keyboard or PC graphic user interface) to select the camera that they want to view; they can further pan, tilt and zoom to focus on areas of interest, while selecting recording of video cameras and using playback controls to view past events.
Speed dome PTZ cameras around gaming tables track patron behavior, while fixed cameras record. Casinos, said Michael Usami, Senior Manager of the Product Planning Section at Sony's IPELA Department, also differentiate between surveillance and security. Surveillance refers to gaming tables, while security is the term used for regular areas. Surveillance managers have access to both surveillance and security rooms, but security staff members are not given access to the casino's surveillance room, which is considered the more high-security area.
Most existing installations are still analog, normally with a mix of cameras and vendors, explained Fredrik Nilsson, General Manager, Axis Communications. Recording is currently being done by DVRs and, sometimes, even VCRs. Some Indian reservation casinos, where there is less regulation by gaming commissions, are moving to fully-digital systems represented by network cameras and virtual matrices. "To really track what is going on at a table, image quality is key," said Nilsson. "Image quality is better using network cameras because of progressive scan and, even more importantly, because of megapixel resolution."
Nilsson's revelations echo those of other industry experts. According to a leading U.S. industry publication, the gaming industry may be known for use of cutting-edge technology, but more than 90 percent of all U.S. gaming facilities today still operate under old analog technology from 25 years ago. A 2006 study commissioned by the International Foundation for Protection Officers stated that CCTV cameras are mainly used by casinos to pick up cheating techniques by players, incidents of violent crime, and employee theft. Nowadays, new technology works with CCTV cameras to recognize suspicious guests at a faster rate, and help casinos contact one another to find information concerning suspicious persons in a matter of minutes. The study also stressed the importance of good liaison between security officers and casino surveillance teams, as well as between casinos and local authorities.
Larger casinos can have thousands of analog cameras installed, and many have no intention of replacing ones that still function properly, said Bob Banerjee, Product Marketing Manager for Bosch IP Video Products. That said, they can still migrate to digital recording by digitizing these analog streams via IP encoders and sending video to storage area networks (SANs) or directly attached disk array RAIDs that use an IP-based storage networking standard, the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI).
All casinos use a variety of fixed and PTZ cameras, said Scott Bartlett, CEO of Southwest Surveillance Systems (SSS), to provide a combination of mobile and zoom as well as fixed surveillance. Some sophisticated casinos include integration with PoS systems, soft-count bill counters, slot systems, and other equipment. The ability to interface gives surveillance operators the flexibility to view any keystroke on a PoS register and verify that bills are getting strapped in soft count with the correct denomination. The operator can also search by event if there is a shortage.
According to Bartlett, after realizing that someone had made copies of its $25 chip, one facility replaced all chips with new ones incorporating RFID transmitters. An RFID transmitter sends signals that are tracked via antenna systems to show the location of each chip. Using this technology, casino surveillance teams have the means to track chips throughout the casino.
Another illustration was provided by Ben Donohue, Vice President of Business Development for Axcess International. "One challenge that casinos face is control of slot machine keys that are carried by slot technicians and managers. The issue is that all U.S. gaming commissions require that keys remain inside a casino and in the control of the casino at all times. If keys leave the casino for any period of time, inadvertently or otherwise, the casino is required to report this to the gaming commission, re-key all slot machines in the casino, pay a large fine and, in some locations, terminate the employee who carried the keys out of the casino."
A system that prevents keys from leaving a casino, he continued, has been developed, using specialized RFID tags that hang on locked key chains and trigger an alarm when employees near exits. The system has a one-event ROI, and has been proven to save casinos up to US$100,000 per event.
Using network video surveillance, instead of sending video over analog cables, an IP (or ATM) network distributes video captured from cameras to monitors and NVRs. The main advantage, said Cedric Vansteenkiste, Head of Bus ines s Development , Telindus Surveillance Solutions, is easier integration of multiple security technologies (video surveillance, access control, cash registers, fire alarms, slot machines, intrusion detection and notification systemssilent alarm buttons under tables), as all communication is on one network. By linking all information together, automated reactions are possible, improving efficiency of security operators.
The typical problem with analog video recorders is usage of tapes, continued Vansteenkiste. Casinos using an analog video recorder system have to swap tapes at regular time intervals. This is not only a very labor-intensive task, but also causes tapes to wear down and limits video quality for replay and analysis (standard analog VCRs record at half resolution). A second problem is that this practice significantly reduces how far back in time operators can look at video. With an NVR solution, this can be handled in a dynamic way. All video is stored on digital disks in high-quality format, allowing instant rewind and slow motion of recorded video as well as the possibility to tag video with information from other security systems to allow automated, easier search of recorded video.
Casinos are deploying new megapixel cameras, said Alberto Bruschi, Sales Director, CIEFFE; these are very useful, especially during investigations, given the immediate recognition provided by powerful digital zoom. Key has been the introduction of megapixel IP cameras with MPEG-4 compression (rather than traditional JPEG). Using this technology, it is possible to save storage space, as compression is up to 20 times more effective; this also greatly reduces bandwidth usage.
Facial recognition is one of the latest innovations, as are systems that automatically scan for certain persons or actions, noted the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV). The center considers the gaming industry as one that is pushing the envelope of technical innovation in surveillance, both visual and behavioral, because of breakthroughs in digital imaging technology.
The American Gaming Association also pointed to an overall movement toward completely cashless slot floors thanks to increasing utilization of ticket-in and ticket-out (TITO) technology; introduction of server-based games that allow operators to make changes to any slot machine on the floor from a single secure computer server within the casino; multi-player games that allow customers to compete against each other on a single machine; and RFID, which several casinos are using on casino chips to improve security and player tracking so as to increase the rating integrity of both players and dealers.
The newest technology that is being implemented is video analytics, said Bartlett. "Object separation is very popular; the system can tell if individuals walk off without a briefcase that they walked in with. When these individuals leave an area without the object that they came in with, the system will generate an alarm for surveillance operators to review. This makes viewing of literally thousands of cameras a simple task. Operators need not catch a person leaving the object; they need only verify the alarm condition to see if it is actually a problem."
Other video analytics functions include loitering, directional motion detection, and trip line applications. The industry is also looking into human behavioral patters to trigger alarms if someone is acting abnormally.
To help security personnel monitor cameras more effectively, video content analysis (VCA) embedded in IP cameras or encoders (VCA at the edge) is reducing the amount of video that is sent to personnel to monitor, explained Banerjee. With VCA at the edge, it is possible to transmit only alarm video (video with potential security concerns). Some systems can be programmed to trigger alarms based on object size, object color, speed, or aspect ratio. Others offer behavioral analysis, which can accurately identify loitering, removal or theft of objects from scenes, or objects that have been left behind. Once an alarm is triggered, the system can automatically increase frame rate and resolution of recording to capture the event in more detail and send the video to storage.
Card recognition analytics has also been launched, said Tye. This involves use of video analysis to monitor all cards that are turned in a game table. Software can then track and analyze betting patterns and probability of a game and detection of possible cheating activities. However, this technology is, at the moment, expensive and unreliable.
Chris Williams, Marketing Director for Wavelet Technology, pointed to the use of hard-disk digital recorders. "These are still relatively new to casinos, due to the poor quality of many hard-disk products. Most are fine for general office or factory use, but not good enough for casinos. There are only about four or five manufacturers who meet the required standard."
Facial recogni t ion, behaviour recognition, and image analysis technologies, even though mostly still at an early stage, will become more and more important in future, stated Vansteenkiste, as they greatly enhance automation capabilities of network surveillance solutions. Facial recognition can trigger alarms when certain blacklisted players enter a casino. However, the success rate of this technology is currently subject to availability of a good angle shot of the person in question.
There are two types of facial recognition technologies designed for the casino industry, explained Sapna Capoor, Biometrics Industry Analyst, Global Markets, Industrial Automation & Electronics, Frost & Sullivan. One of these is the low-end, facial recognition module, whose main function is to record a person's image. This is then analyzed and compared with a database of images. Then, there are high-end, facial recognition technologies, which accomplish the task of analyzing images; these are integrated with video surveillance cameras to provide real-time identification.
The main trend for adoption of these two types of technologies is seen in North America and Western Europe, Capoor continued, primarily because of political pressure on the casino industry to prevent gambling addicts or blacklisted persons from entering casinos. At the moment, this is still a growth market. Facial recognition is currently used more frequently for monitoring of VIP guests as a marketing tool to help casinos come up with ways to encourage patrons to spend more on casino facilities and services.
One of the main players in this sector is U.S.-based Cross Match Technologies, the company that acquired German biometric company C-VIS GmbH, which has developed a solution enabling casinos to carry out background checks on potential employees. The solution compares images against a database of stored biometric data. Facial recognition systems are particularly suited to casinos, Capoor believes, because they are non-intrusive and offer security without impeding flow of patrons on casino floors.
Williams warned, however, that biometrics does not figure in much in casinos at present because accuracy is not good and processing time too lengthy. About 80 percent of casino security, he added, is surveillance, while approximately 10 percent is access control.
Case Study: French Connection
With 250 casinos in France, the industry is more and more regulated, said Dominique Auvray, Marketing Development Manager for the Competence Centre Electronic Security at Gunnebo. Threats in the French industry include vandalism, attacks on staff, and vault deposit room break-ins, the latter of which are secured against using solutions similar to ones used in the banking sector. Solutions in French casinos can be broken down as follows: 80 percent video surveillance; 10 percent manned security; and 10 percent access control, intrusion alarms, biometrics and RFID.
Further, Auvray revealed that identification solutions are being used to link to national databases of gambling addicts who have volunteered to be registered on banned persons lists, adding that regulation prohibits casinos to keep video for longer than a month.