Casinos Bank on Sophisticated Surveillance Equipment

Casino operators are among the most proactive, demanding users of CCTV surveillance. IP video systems are an ideal solution as long as they are well-designed.

Gala Hotel and Casino

The Gala Hotel and Casino complex in Douglas, Isle of Man, U.K., required a flexible system that could be easily and cost-effectively expanded to meet future needs. It installed an integrated IP video solution to provide CCTV surveillance for its gaming operation. The system, installed by Zoom CCTV Ltd., uses IndigoVision's control center enterprise video and alarm management software for control, administration and viewing of live camera feeds and recorded video over an IP network. Video recording is achieved using three one-terabyte standalone NVRs. Combination of software and an IP network creates a virtual matrix that is flexible and fully scalable, unlike an analog matrix in a traditional cabled system.

Twenty-six cameras from the original installation were reused by connecting them to transmitter and receiver racks. The racks convert analog camera feeds into 25-frame-per-second, MPEG-4, high-quality digital video for transmission. Three channels of audio from different areas of the casino are also transmitted over the network and recorded on NVRs alongside the video.

IP video technology provides an ideal platform for demanding CCTV requirements of gaming operations, which typically need high-definition video images and fast analysis of recorded footage. The original system was based on VCR recording technology and required tapes from 20 recorders to be changed every three hours. The three NVRs record continuous 25-frame-per-second, high-quality video from all cameras for 21 days. IndigoVision software allows a specific recorded video sequence to be quickly and easily located; this vastly speeds resolution of potential customer disputes. It is fully compliant with local gaming board regulations and has significantly improved efficiency of security operations.

"Because of the importance of the CCTV surveillance," said Alan Steedman, Project Manager at Zoom CCTV, "the casino needed a resilient, fault-tolerant system; this was provided by IndigoVision's IP video solution. In the unlikely event of an NVR going down, all live camera feeds are still available and recording is switched to the other NVRs while the problem is resolved."

Casino on the Continent

The Great Aljarafe Casino located in Seville, Spain occupies an area of almost 7,000 square meters (including parking areas). Officially opened in March 2006, the casino offers a range of leisure activities including bars, a nightclub and five restaurants. The casino has 25 gaming tables for black jack, poker and roulette.

The casino invited potential suppliers to submit a proposal for installation of a network of cameras and to record video and audio continuously at 25 images per second for a minimum period of 10 days. The system was required to operate over a local area network, and permit upward of 11 individual users to simultaneously access and view any live or archived data. Casinos in Spain are heavily regulated and must maintain a comprehensive recording and management system. Legislation requires that all activity in public areas and at gaming tables be continuously recorded.

Despite the technical expertise available in Spain, Andromica Video Systems' proposal, based on deployment of Wavestore recorders, was selected because of the company's specialized knowledge of the gaming and leisure industry. In addition, ability of Wavestore to record at high frame rates, record and display high-quality images, and deliver synchronized audio were decisive factors.

A network of 10 digital video recorders was subsequently installed to record video data from 125 analog cameras simultaneously at 25 images per second at 4 CIF resolution. All activity at gaming tables is recorded at 25 pictures per second to provide detailed analysis of motion. Total storage capacity installed was 12 terabytes, provided in 10 rack-mounted recorders located in secure areas and operated fully unattended. This option was preferred over that of a distributed design (where individual recorders are located near clusters of cameras).

Very fast image find is not compromised even if all remote users are simultaneously utilizing any pentaplex functionality, (backup, recording, playback, networking or live view). Control stations are located around the casino, including one in each of three pit areas, one in each manager's office and one in the security control room. Pit managers are associated with specific gaming tables and are on hand to resolve disputes.

Ability to instantly access specific video and synchronized audio data enables such disputes to be resolved decisively. Security personnel and pit managers are frequently required to locate archived images instantly from extensive data storage arrays. They rely on the solution to select and export still images of known gambling cheats or banned players. An important element was the company's ability to provide remote, secure diagnostic and maintenance capability from its U.K. operations.

Monitoring of camera images is provided in two ways using PC terminals: standard remote client software or Wavestore EVISa powerful user-configurable security management suite that provides remote monitoring and control capability combined with interactive maps so untrained staff can operate the monitoring station. EVIS also provides a series of optional functions such as linking cameras to access control and alarm circuits to retain video records of events.

The casino required that EVIS software be installed with a map of the casino floor in a grid format so when areas were selected, associated PTZ cameras would traverse to those areas and display live images. Then, operators take control and zoom in on specific activities. The system also provides the option to select a fixed or PTZ camera to monitor and record.

The fundamental technology that underpins the solution is highly scalable and networkable, enabling many casinos to be networked and/or monitored remotely. On the opening day, several suspicious characters were present and the staff found it very easy to track them around the casino floor using the map application.

Turning Stone Casino

Turning Stone Casino expanded its campus by adding over 1,000 new jobs and several new facilities. It now includes a 21-story hotel, winter garden, restaurants, garages and exhibition hall. After maximizing the previously installed analog surveillance system, Turning Stone took advantage of its established network infrastructure by upgrading to an IP-based surveillance solution. Turning Stone combined Axis video servers and network cameras with Power over Ethernet (PoE) to provide round-the-clock surveillance.

During the first phase, Turning Stone Casino installed over 100 network cameras; the second phase included another 100 Axis network cameras equipped with PoE technology. PoE cameras provide customers with a security solution for leveraging network infrastructures that is not bound by electric cabling limitations and cost.

Axis network cameras are being used in a variety of applications. In addition to monitoring hallways, parking garages and dining areas, cameras also monitor influx of people in high-traffic areas. Video recording and management is done via software from Lenel Systems International. The system is also equipped with facial-recognition software designed to spot unwanted guests.

"We chose the Axis IP surveillance system to best leverage our established network infrastructure while significantly improving monitoring capabilities," said Jeffrey McGowan, System Engineer at Turning Stone Casino. "The combination of using an established network, PoE technology and a reduction in maintenance and installation fees has lead to significant cost savings."

Mystical Systems Upgrade

The Minnesota and Mississippi River Valleys had been home to the Dakota Indians for centuries, but the area had a history filled with conflict and broken treaties. When it became a federally recognized tribe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) gained the right of self-determination and self-sufficiency. This was not easy task, and the tribe takes its sovereignty and security seriously. For that reason, SMSC bears a burden of responsibility when it comes to protecting patrons at its casinos and the assets those gaming facilities bring to the tribe. That was the thinking behind SMSC's renovation of the video surveillance and access control system serving its Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino facilities in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

After passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), Little Six High Stakes bingo parlor expanded in 1988 with slot machines and blackjack, becoming Little Six Casino. Four years later, a second casino complex was opened roughly a mile down the road, named Mystic Lake. The facility has grown to include 4,250 slot machines, 100 blackjack tables, 600 hotel rooms, five restaurants, a star-caliber showroom and high-stakes bingo.

The previously installed state-of-the-art video security system was starting to show its age. The casino's surveillance authorities had been evaluating digital video systems since 1999 and saw first hand the tremendous increases in video quality, reliability and operational features. While they were anxious to incorporate the features that a digital recording system could bring, timing was everything.

"Construction projects and the pace of expansion resulted in additional cameras. We had already exceeded the capacity of our American Dynamics matrix switch, forcing us to use satellite switches to accommodate added inputs," said Richard Thake, Director of Surveillance at the casino. "With added features that a digital system provides, we felt that we had a compelling story to take to the board of directors."

There would be two command centersone for security, one for surveillance but these would now function more like operation centers, tying in cameras from around the community. These included cameras from the three parking garages, the Little Six Casino, a new water treatment facility and various other buildings. A third muster room would serve as an emergency gathering point in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. An unprecedented level of integration would be required, interconnecting video surveillance and recording into a host of other systems that included fire, intercom, building controls, access control and various proprietary gaming systems.

According to Robert Grossman, owner of R. Grossman & Associates, "Mystic Lake's technicians began closing in on the work that would be required for the transition. The system requirement had grown somewhat since we had started planning it. We were going to use as little coaxial cable as possible, since we were all believers in unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) technology, so 25-pair trunk lines were pulled for the 1,200 feet between the two rack rooms."

"We had used UTP in the new hotel tower as well as for some new casino cameras and liked working with it," explained Mystic Lake technician Chris Jasnoch. Nitek allowed the team to slightly customize its equipment without voiding the warranty. "We enjoy working with Mystic Lake and have already rolled some of their changes and suggestions for improvements into our product line," said Chad Szekeres, National Sales Manager for Nitek in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Eventually, the old American Dynamics matrix that had served Mystic Lake so faithfully was removed, allowing remaining encoders to be put into place. This was the missing piece of the puzzle that would allow Grossman to move the project to completion. The operators would now be moved into the new room and the existing control room would be disassembled and relocated to the new security command center. That, in turn, would allow security to move from their old control room to the new room, completing the control room portion of the project.

In the meantime, retention testing began in early February. Thirty days of perfect operation are required of the digital recording system before the analog system can be demolished. At that point, the temporary rack room built to hold VCRs during the transition was turned over to the construction department, as well as portions of the old rack room and old control room. Walls were knocked down, floors tiled and the new, expanded employee cafeteria was born. A sophisticated surveillance system is now the property of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and US$10 million says it will be doing its job until the next technological advance renders it obsolete.

First Digital Matrix

Blending the best of San Diego's most elegant resorts with the gaming excitement of Las Vegas, the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino is San Diego's leading destination resort. Featuring 400 luxury guest rooms and suites, a 300,000-square-foot casino, a lakefront wedding chapel, the AmBience Day Spa, a full-service event center and an 18-hole championship Barona Creek Golf Club, it is rated the third-best resort course in California by Golfweek Magazine.

After a two-year search for the best available system, the Barona Gaming Commission, an independent regulatory body that also monitors casino surveillance in the Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, selected the Dallmeier Casino Team to design a tailor-made surveillance solution.

"We previously used an analog monitoring system, and we decided to implement a more innovative program," said Raymond Welch, Director of Surveillance with the Barona Gaming Commission. "Regularly changing the tapes and archiving them was simply too expensive and searching for relevant pictures was very laborious and tedious. While analog systems are easy to use, the simplicity, reliability and functionality of the Dallmeier digital system are even better."

Since the award-winning property opened in 2003, Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino has been heralded in the gaming industry as being the first to develop and adopt a number of technological innovations. Barona developed and launched the gaming industry's first cross-platform, ticket-in/ticket-out technology; this is now found on almost every casino floor in the country. Barona's next innovation was a patented thumb-print technology used by guests in the resort's high-end private gaming rooms. In December 2005, Barona became the first casino in the U.S. to offer serverbased gaming.

Given the Barona Tribe and casino management's penchant for embracing leading technology, the system offered by Dallmeier was a natural choice. "Dallmeier develops and produces products for the future," said Welch. "Barona's new monitoring system will become a model for many other casinos in North America. One of the most important factors in choosing Dallmeier was its understanding of our vision to create a customized solution using the best available technology. With the launch of this new system, Barona is once again raising the bar for technology not only for Native American casinos, but also across the industry."

When the Dallmeier Casino Team visited the site, it got a first impression of the situation and designed a tailor-made surveillance solution. The result comprises more than 1,100 DIS-2/M MPEG encoders with a total recording capacity of more than 330 terabytes of recording with full redundancy. The DIS-2/M is a modular audio and video recording and transmission system in a 19-inch rack construction with slide-in units. Its construction makes it the ideal solution for monitoring critical areas in casinos where compact high-quality recording and real-time transmission are required (broadcast quality).

The system consists of modules, each based on the Linux secure operating system. In each module, connection to one video and one audio signal is possible. Video input has been designed as a composite and Y/C input. Four input contacts and four output contacts are available on each channel for control and switching tasks. In addition, each module features a RS232/485 interface for controlling PTZ cameras. Modular construction and the hot-plug function of individual modulesredundant power supply units of the rack also possess theseensure the highest availability of the complete solution. An additional advantage is space saving of over 50 percent in IT rooms.

The systems record directly to integrated memory and, thus, ensure maximum availability of recorded data, even in cases where the network experiences problems or fails. Additionally, network requirements (bandwidth) are minimized through this memory concept. It is possible to simultaneously record, transmit live video signals and replay recorded images in an unrestricted manner.

The Barona Casino started replacing existing cameras by Dallmeier with Cam_inPIX technology. Through the innovative sensor concept of Cam_inPIX(r) technology, based on the most up-to-date Digital Pixel System (DPS) platform from Pixim, every individual pixel of the picture information is converted digitally as soon as the picture is taken and then optimally processed. This means that even sites affected by high-contrast lighting conditions can be captured and documented with an outstanding picture quality that was simply not possible previously.

Thanks to specially developed software, cameras supply top-quality pictures in casino-specific conditions. There is, for example, the gambling preset for surveillance of roulette tables. Clear color playback makes it possible to reconstruct disputed situations correctly to resolve problems. To operate the system, workstations and analog monitor walls with a number of monitors were installed. The system can be controlled and managed using keyboard, jog-shuttle and graphical user interface specially customized for Barona Casinos.

To ensure that the change-over to the digital solution went smoothly, the new system ran alongside its predecessor for a period of time. Some of the security staff was working with the new system and trained so that there were no hitches. Only once this was completed satisfactorily was the old system switched off completely. With the CCTV system running faultlessly since September 2006, the decision-makers are already planning further expansions with Dallmeier.
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