The daily operations of a casino require tight security and a reliable surveillance system. The “eye in the sky” never sleeps, monitoring risks such as cheating, fraud and theft on the premises. Having a reliable security and surveillance system is crucial for the daily operations of a casino, and many cases have been solved with recorded video. While analog systems have worked well in the past, advancements in IP have made networking a viable option for casino surveillance. Recently, a group of scammers partnered with a casino's dealer, threatening to walk away with thousands of dollars. Video analytics and a megapixel camera helped lead to their arrests.
Despite proof that IP is indeed valuable, decision makers are still hesitant about migrating. The upfront costs of an overhaul into the future with a fully integrated IP system remains an obstacle to wider uptake. Casino security and surveillance keep tabs on cash, people and property.
As soon as one steps into a casino, every movement is recorded. Surveillance cameras dot the ceiling like stars — every square inch of a casino floor is covered by one or more cameras. They work 24/7, sending a constant image feed back to the central control room for review. Casinos are facilities where large sums of money are exchanged and kept, which call for advanced surveillance and security systems to combat numerous risks, as well as keep patrons and employees safe.
Casinos built in the past have relied on an extensive wired network of analog cameras, operated by security personnel who would manually zoom in on suspicious areas. They would then keep a close eye on the area for any irregularities before confirming it was safe or if security personnel should be called to the scene. However, this method can prove to be time-consuming and tedious, since it is impossible for a handful of security personnel to keep tabs on more than 1,000 image feeds simultaneously.
Analog Systems in Need of an Upgrade
Full analog systems form the majority of security systems in casinos today. “Sixty to 70 percent of the casinos in Nevada still rely on analog systems,” said Tommy Burns, CEO of Burns & Associates. However, I P h a s abundant advantages over analog. “Analog is no longer wanted because storage is always an issue. More can be done with digital storage capabilities when using the right compression format.”
This is significant because gaming regulations determine the amount of time video footage is kept. “Casinos are required to store video surveillance recordings for a defined period of time — from one week to 30 days, depending on their location and state laws. As a result, many casinos must store thousands of video cassette tapes with recorded video,” said Ian Crosby, CCTV Product Marketing Manager, Bosch Security Systems.
It also expends unnecessary money and manpower. “ Casinoscould have 500 to 1,000 VCRs recording camera video. Each VCR requires a tape change every eight hours, and tapes have to be rewound and stored for seven days. On a typical eight hour shift, an operator would spend 60 to 90 minutes purely dealing with the tape changes,” said Oliver Vellacott, CEO of IndigoVision.
Gaming is the only market which still heavily relies on analog. “Airports, schools and other large installations which require constant surveillance have all migrated to IP. This is because IP products yield better performance, are easier to service and have lately become more available, whereas analog digital equipment is starting to become harder to find,” said Bill Miller, CEO of Reliable Security. “Analog digital hybrid systems end up with obsolete equipment, such as the matrix switch and analog input DVRs. IP systems have the type of advanced capabilities many users cannot find in an analog digital hybrid.”
Making the Switch
Casino operators understand the benefits of megapixel and HD cameras. “Opportunities for analog video systems in this important market are disappearing fast. IP is seeing a lot of growth, and it can be attributed to an increase in the number of casinos and casino security professionals who are unsatisfied with their existing SD cameras and are taking steps to upgrade them,” said Paul Bodell, VP of Global Business Development, IQinVision. “Prior to 2005, this wasn't an option since the low-light and frame rate performance of megapixel and HD cameras was not adequate. However, the best megapixel and HD cameras now offer full 30 fps with image quality that is better than analog cameras, and these cameras have the low-light performance capabilities that meet casino requirements.”
A casino's defense against risks cannot be lowered during upgrades and overhauls. “Video surveillance is the heart of the security system in a casino. No casino table is allowed to operate without the corresponding surveillance system running,” said Roger Tsang, District Manager for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, ADT Security.
To achieve this, options include segmented replace mentor completing the installation and running it simultaneously, to ensure operational satisfaction before shutting down the old system. “The key to any upgrade is careful planning, specifying the correct products, equipment staging, installation scheduling and technology crossover. When this is done correctly, a complete system shutdown of the casino is not necessary, and virtually any new deployment can be done with minimum interruption and inconvenience,” said Jason Oakley, CEO of North American Video. “Hybrid video solutions are the logical path to provide a phased migration from analog to digital systems.”
Hybrid Systems Bridge Gap
epping up from an analog system to a hybrid system can be challenging. “The biggest challenges initially when trying to integrate a hybrid system is the existing infrastructure upgrades,” said Scott Bartlett, CEO of Southwest Surveillance Systems. “Once past that, the next hurdle is tying in HD cameras into an analog environment. To make this step easier, it is best to change the thought processes and talk to the digital recording system instead of the analog matrix, otherwise one will have to down convert the HD system to be viewed in analog format.”
For a transition, a hybrid system allows for analog reliability with better imaging from megapixel and HD cameras. “The hybrid solution lets you use a combination of analog and network cameras, DVRs and IP servers. It can complement the shortfalls of both IP and analog systems ,” s a id Johnny Law, Executive GM of Electronic Security, Hong Kong and Guangdong, UTC Fire & Security.
Prior to the advancements made recently, network cameras suffered from low-light sensitivity issues and did not have the PTZ capabilities casino operators were used to. “But as improvements are being made, and network cameras are deemed no longer inferior to analog cameras in terms of stability and functionality, it is pushing us even further away from the hybrid environment and into a full IP or HD environment,” Bartlett said.
The Lure of IP Systems
Casinos are calling out for IP systems and products after recognizing the numerous operational advancements they have over analog. “Fifty percent of the installations done over the past four to five years have been IP-based. They take up 10 to 15 percent of the overall casino market and will only grow from here,” Miller said.
The advantages of IP devices over analog are obvious. “IP solutions have better image quality, increased coverage area, longer recording times, smart search capabilities, Web-based remote viewing and can capture clearer images of moving objects,” Law said. “Slot machines and blackjack table areas are best equipped with IP video surveillance systems. Thus, such systems are widely installed because they can also reduce cost, use less cabling, provide flexibility and digital functions, and take up less video storage space by using file compression formats.
Currently, megapixel and HD cameras are the leading trend for casino security. “They can offer a resolution that is 10 or even 20 times higher compared to a traditional VGA network camera or VGA encoder. Casino operators can have fewer cameras installed by using megapixel cameras and still be able to enhance the video resolution and area that is being monitored,” Tsang said.
Some gaming regulations require all security cameras to record at 30 fps. This used to be unattainable using megapixel and HD cameras due to their high network bandwidth. “1.3 megapixel and HD cameras can now run at 30 fps without any problems. However, anything higher than that cannot get that many fps,” said Scott Schafer, Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, Arecont Vision. “Thus, higher megapixel cameras are being used in areas where frame rate is not a requirement, such as the floor area where only 10 to 15 fps are needed. Fifty percent of the cameras we sell are 1- to 2-megapixel, and 50 percent are 3- and 5-megapixel cameras.”
Aside from better image quality which helps capture small details, analytics also play a major part in the appeal of an IP system. Analytics can help catch minor movements and irregularities that could indicate foul play automatically, so security operators are alerted to a certain table at play.
High image quality is required for facial recognition to work, and as facial recognition technologies improve, casino operators are seeing it as a valuable tool for managing customers. “Facial and fingerprint records of VIPs can be registered with venue officials and stored in the database,” said Sri Kurniawan, CTO of RCG Holdings. “The nonintrusive automatic facial recognition system can continuously scan for faces via camera and inform the administrations anytime a particular known individual is entering a venue. Similarly, the system also recognizes blacklisted individuals and notifies the security team upon their arrival.”
However, facial recognition may not completely be ready for deployment. “I have yet to see a system work in a casino environment. The ceilings are too high and there are usually too many people coming through the doors at one time for any system to be effective,” Bartlett said.