4 Video Surveillance Best Practices for Gaming and Casinos

Video surveillance is a mission-critical system within the gaming sector. Not only do casinos have to be on the lookout for professional fraudsters who prey on distracted dealers and players, but they also have to stay vigilant against a wide variety of risks, such as drunken or rowdy behavior, crowding, loss and other issues that impact the safety of employees and customers. Casinos want the best in technology to not only ensure security and fraud reduction but be able to track advantage players, identify lost/left behind items and reduce employee theft. At times, budget constraints and regulatory concerns can slow down the adoption of newer technologies.

Casinos also have to comply with a variety of industry regulations, passed down by various gaming boards. Although they may vary from region-to-region, nearly every casino must adhere to some type of minimum standard as it relates to the operation of its surveillance system — be it minimum resolution/frame rate requirements or video retention. Regulatory agencies across the globe specify the number of cameras a facility must have per table or slot machine — the standard implemented depends on different factors.

With these considerations in mind, as facilities increasingly look to adopt the latest advanced technologies, here are four best practices that every casino, regardless of their shape or size, should take under advisement as they endeavor to optimize their video surveillance investment:

Ensure Quality of Video
There is no compromising when it comes to video image quality. While cheaper alternatives may be appealing from a cost perspective, less advanced devices are not equipped to handle the modern stresses of a casino — an environment with flashing lights, bright and dark areas, and significant 24×7 movement. Installing cameras that have been purpose-built to perform in casino settings are ideal. If a manufacturer doesn’t offer particular customizations suited to this market, then the odds are that their cameras haven’t been tested to withstand the rigors of a gaming floor.

Have Quality Backup Systems in Place
Just as paramount as video quality is within a casino, so is redundancy. Per regulatory agencies, if any part of a camera system fails, the casino may be forced to cease operations until the system is brought back to health. Casinos must ensure there is no single point of failure within its surveillance system. A good way to test this is by going through and turning off various pieces of equipment to see how fast redundant systems take effect and whether or not there are any performance issues once back online.

Make Ease of Use a Priority
Events happen fast— surveillance teams need instant access to video footage to track threats in real-time and upon a review request. Tracking personnel around a casino floor can prove to be a challenge considering the rows upon rows of slot machines and table games. Some facilities even have multiple gaming floors. The last thing you want is for surveillance personnel having to resort to an inefficient system to gain access to the footage they require. As such, the video management system should be optimized for gaming operations and allow users to tag suspects quickly or mark groups of cameras to simplify system management.

Leverage the Power of Video with Third-Party Software Integration
Casinos are looking to get the most out of the video data generated on a daily basis. One of the ways businesses accomplish this is by integrating the surveillance network with other software platforms, such as point-of-sale systems or building controls. A casino’s VMS should also be able to interface with other security sensors on the gaming floor. Ideally, if a slot machine were to be opened, the door alarm on that machine should be sent to the control room, and a camera feed from the area should immediately pop onto an operator’s screen to verify the footage. However, that is currently not the case for a majority of systems within the industry.

The pace of technology advancement means that casinos must be prepared for the next-generation of video hardware and software solutions to make sure they are ready to evolve operations when the time is right. Now is the time to get educated on where you can take your investments. Learn more about Pelco solutions for the casinos and gaming sector here.

Case Study | Chuckchansi Gold Casino and Resort

About Chuckchansi Gold Casino and Resort

Nestled into the base of the Sierra Foothills and on the way to California’s Yosemite National Park, the Chukchansi Gold Casino and Resort offers visitors and locals alike a scenic gaming and entertainment destination. It is owned and operated by the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians and features 56,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,750 slot machines and 36 table games as well as a night club, players club, and dining and entertainment services.

View More About Chuckchansi Gold Casino and Resort

How AI Will Make a Major Difference in the Entertainment Industry

The convergence of video surveillance and artificial intelligence has surely made significant gains in the way we keep people and places safe, as well as how we improve the operational efficiency of our businesses.  This is especially true for casinos and other entertainment locations.

AI is changing the landscape of video surveillance in gaming environments, here’s how:

Automatic Alerts

By combining behavioral analysis as well as more traditional boundary-based analytics suspicious activity can instantly be spotted and brought to the attention of staff to review. Add in the casino analytics software monitoring the dealers and players at the tables, and a complete operational oversight of the gaming areas can be provided.

With Pelco’s VideoXpert, casinos can enhance the security of guests, employees, and property. VideoXpert includes a variety of features that help security teams identify and respond to problems much more quickly and reliably than in the past.

Facial and Object Recognition

In terms of facial recognition technology, whilst we are not yet at a point where we can pinpoint a single suspect in a crowd of a million people with a high level of confidence, great strides are being made. Being able to compare individuals walking into a property with a list of known banned subject or person of interest can provide the opportunity to proactively respond to potential situations rather than having to deal with matters after the fact.

Casino operators should look for a VMS that is compatible with leading facial recognition vendors, so automatic alerts can be sent to the appropriate personnel when a banned or unauthorized person is detected.

Pattern Analysis

AI has massively improved object recognition and alerts, but that’s not where AI is going to make the only difference. Instead, AI will make big waves in Pattern Analysis Technology (PAT). PAT picks up on behavioral patterns on a macro scale, such as average crowd levels during a particular time of day or the average amount of time it takes for a person to play a game of blackjack.

After this learning period, the system can then detect events that stand out from typical behaviors and patterns, such as a person staying at the blackjack table for hours on end. Security personnel in entertainment spaces can then quickly make response recommendations to the appropriate authorities, which increases the chance that the breach will be successfully addressed.

Pelco is proud to serve the gaming industry with video surveillance solutions that boost safety all year round. Learn more about our surveillance solutions today.

Surveillance in entertainment spaces

People seek out entertainment to relax and forget their worries, but unfortunately, major venues present a variety of security risks that make a lot of would-be visitors nervous about seeing a sports match, attending a concert or trying their chance at a casino. The large number of people, the alcohol and the excitement (or in the case of sports or gambling, deep disappointment) can endanger the safety of patrons and employees.

Fortunately, surveillance technology keeps getting better. Pelco’s multi-sensor panoramic cameras are at the forefront of changes that offer major venues a cost-effective way to identify and intervene to stop dangerous behaviour far more quickly than ever before.

Security solutions that work for low-key sites often don’t serve the needs of a major entertainment venue, such as a casino or a stadium. Those places present a number of unique challenges that only top-notch multi-sensor video cameras address.

The biggest challenge is the sheer number of people who attend a major sporting event, or who are cruising the floor of a major casino. These types of environments have traditionally lent themselves to crimes of opportunity, such as pick-pocketing, because offenders can so quickly disappear into the crowd and count on grainy, inconclusive surveillance footage that fails to identify a culprit.

Pelco’s multi-sensor cameras, however, provide high-definition images that let security personnel see exactly what’s going on, with the same precision that they’d enjoy if they were standing next to the patrons on the ground. Just as important, when bad behaviour is observed, staff can zoom in on the offender’s face and get a high-definition image that it can not only use to investigate the event in the near-term but that it can have on file for future reference.

Another inherent challenge is the size of the venues themselves. Pelco’s panoramic cameras cover large swaths of space – from 180 to 360 degree views – allowing those watching the footage to view much more than would be offered by a conventional fixed camera. Seamless, panoramic views ensure operators can see the entire scene, with no gap in coverage.

Pelco’s cameras are also equipped to deal with the considerable variation in light that event spaces are subject to, from the dim lights of a casino bar or the entrance of a football stadium after sunset. The cameras’ wide dynamic range – powered by SureVision technology – ensures crisp images no matter what the light conditions, from very dark to very bright.

What sets Pelco’s cameras apart from conventional technology, however, is its use of analytics to identify situations that would elude the naked eye. Analytics can instantly spot and alert staff to undesirable behaviours, such as an unattended bag or a person moving the wrong way through a door. Through integration, analytics capabilities are enhanced to immediately notify staff of the presence of a guest who has posed problems in the past, a feature of particular relevance in the gaming industry.

Video security systems are, of course, not just there to respond to problems in real time, but to gather evidence that can be drawn upon later. Looking back through footage is key to responding to reported issues involving guests as well as to assess the performance of employees. One client, the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, keeps up to three months of prior footage on hand with Pelco’s VMS storage. Authorised personnel can scroll through footage at breakneck speeds to find what they need, when they need it.

There’s no way to ensure that dangerous behaviour never takes place. But it’s the duty of those who oversee major venues to make sure that bad behaviour does the least damage possible to their patrons. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s good for business.

Tracking Undesirable Behavior in Casinos

Casinos with hotel properties are popular vacation destinations, and with good reason. They provide numerous forms of entertainment and amenities from one location to the next, including gaming halls, pools and beaches, spas, retail shops, amusement parks, and restaurants. Surveillance and security personnel need to be on top of all of these high traffic areas, and the unique challenges that these amenities face as complements to gaming operations.

Because they are attractions across all demographics and cultures, gaming properties and casinos attract a very wide variety of visitors, many of whom elicit undesirable behaviors ranging from alcohol and substance abuse to cheating.

Casino security has to balance a welcoming guest-focused attitude with a firm and capable presence to prevent and handle problems as they arise. Surveillance and security operations are a mainstay at casinos because they support a range of business imperatives, including not only the protection of employees, patrons and assets, but also compliance with stringent gaming regulations.

For many casinos, one of the best ways to create a highly structured, discreet and secure environment is by employing advanced video surveillance technologies that support high-quality analytics. In addition to delivering high levels of situational awareness, these systems also deliver documented evidence for investigations and court cases.

Integrated analytics in fixed, PTZ, 360 degree, and panoramic security cameras can help to detect undesirable behaviors – such as an object left behind, card counting at the gaming table, a door propped open, a guest whose behavior is inappropriate, theft from employees or vendors, and more – and send alerts to security personnel. Surveillance analytics can also track identified individuals from camera to camera throughout the premises. Additionally, facial recognition analytics can alert operators if a known offender enters the casino, freeing security officers from constant monitoring of entrances and exits. And heat mapping can provide valuable insight into loitering statistics so that security officers can better allocate staff to problematic areas. The vast amounts of data provided by the surveillance system can be reviewed for specific trends to prevent further incidents from taking place, and deliver new sources of business intelligence.

With integrated video imaging, camera control and management, and analytics technologies in place, gaming facilities can have the real-time situational awareness and data needed to respond to and deescalate real potential threats and incidents from guests with simply bad manners and behavior.

Why Compliance is Never Worth the Gamble for Casinos

The gaming industry continues its fast rate of growth, and state, corporate, and tribal casinos across every state and county have stringent compliance requirements to which they must adhere. Regulations in the different markets vary widely, sometimes down to the individual casino. It is a complex process to design a surveillance system that satisfies all the diverse regulatory needs of a given location, especially as these regulations can change. Best-in-class surveillance technology providers help casinos keep up with the complicated gaming landscape as compliance requirements evolve and develop.

It’s essential for every gaming organization to adhere at all times to the many individual regulations governing casino surveillance. For example, some rules may require 30 days retention of video, while some may require seven days, or three months. Virtually all gaming institutions are required to have surveillance cameras in place and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any casino found to be out of compliance could be subject to significant fines or immediate closure – a business risk that no organization can afford to take. Casino owners and operators have many factors to take into consideration when it comes to maintaining compliance.

It is necessary to consider system upgrades when discussing the compliance needs of a given gaming institution. As the gaming market moves to IP networks, often maintaining hybrid or parallel systems, reliability is essential to the system’s continued functionality. To keep in compliance with regulations, a system needs to be continuously functional throughout maintenance and testing of new components and features. The ability of security technologies to integrate consistently with a variety of systems is another essential factor as this technological changeover occurs.

It is also important to keep pace with technological trends. Today’s megapixel IP cameras perform at the highest levels to ensure the best image quality, delivering more coverage with higher resolution and enabling casino security to keep tabs on tables, observe dealers and machines, and have a watchful eye on problem guests and other security risks. As technological capabilities relieve stress on compliance requirements, casinos can remain compliant while operating at high levels of functionality and cost-efficiency.

Future-proof systems ensure that as regulations change, systems can scale and integrate where needed to keep up. Whether a casino is hoping to maintain a legacy system, move to all-IP, or support a hybrid system, choosing the right system makes it possible to comply with evolving regulations while providing high levels of safety. This scalability allows for change without needing to rip and replace an entire system – or take a working system offline.

While it can be a challenge to adhere to all gaming regulations, maintaining compliance for tribal casinos often presents issues which are more individualized than for other casinos. These standards are typically created by tribal entities and may differ even from property to property. Remaining within the tribes’ compliance could require a different solution for every system. Familiarity with these differences is essential for anyone who is tasked with compliance in a tribal gaming environment.

Compliance is an essential factor for any gaming security system – as regulations differ, so must the deployment; in fact, every installation of a security system must be individualized to the compliance requirements of that casino. Being consistently compliant while remaining cost-effective and reliable is an essential component of a surveillance system in the gaming industry.

6 Questions Gaming Professionals Should Ask at ASIS

ASIS has long been one of the most important and influential trade shows for security professionals, allowing industry veterans, newbies, and everyone in between the chance to connect, share ideas, receive industry-leading education, and discover evolving trends in the security industry that will help them protect their business, employees and assets. For gaming professionals, ASIS is an excellent opportunity to improve their critical security operations and ensure their systems are dynamic, high-performing, and efficient. While you attend ASIS 2017, here are some essential questions for gaming professionals to keep in mind:

What products will keep my casino in compliance?
Compliance is the foundation on which all gaming security is built, and creating a security system that remains compliant is the first thing you should look for at ASIS. Keep an eye out not only for regulation-compliant designs, but also for future-proof technology that’s scalable and runs in a variety of environments.

What integrations do you offer to help prevent threats?
Integrations are the latest method by which security technology offers value to gaming businesses. Perimeter detection, movement analysis, and mapping technology aligning potential incidents with cameras are just some of the integrations available with security cameras and video management systems (VMS) to assist in securing casinos and other gaming locations.

Do you offer partitioning on your VMS for large operations?
Gaming security operations are often vast and complex, with different needs for different parts of the facility and a variety of security and non-security teams working each sector of the facility. Many manufacturers allow partitioning on their VMS, to delegate certain parts of the system to certain users, allowing for greater focus and efficiency in your security operations.

Do your products integrate with other building automation products?
With so much of a gaming facility automated, security systems that work with the rest of your facility’s operations can be essential in creating a system that operates and communicates efficiently to mitigate risk and de-escalate threats. Ask exhibitors if their products integrate with access control, elevators, point-of-sale, and other networked devices.

Do you have any gaming case studies?
If a manufacturer or integrator has worked with gaming businesses before, they’ll have experience and knowledge that can streamline your security system, ensure that you’re getting proper ROI, and account for intangibles in installation, maintenance, and operations. Ask exhibitors if they have case studies that show their gaming experience.

Is there a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on the floor that can discuss gaming solutions?
A case study is a great way to determine best fit, but an SME is better. If there’s someone on the floor specifically designated to talk about gaming solutions, they’ll be able to answer specific questions about your business that might otherwise go unanswered, and discuss specific solutions that would work for your business. If an SME is available, they’re the best bet.

Gaming security is a complex organism, presenting extremely specific challenges and requiring solutions beyond the needs of most security systems. Luckily, trade shows like ASIS present a variety of options with manufacturers working at the top of the industry to provide the solutions you need. Keeping these six questions in mind when you walk the trade show floor will help you craft the dynamic solution you require.

Would you like to discuss your casino challenges with a security professional at ASIS 2017? Click here to schedule an in-person demonstration to learn more about available solutions.

3 Ways Smart VMS Features Can Solve Common Headaches for Casinos

During the course of my ten-year career working inside of casino surveillance departments, I’ve seen some questions come up more than others. Three of the most common, most difficult video issues that I have been challenged to resolve are the following: Capturing high quality detail at backlit entrance points, improving facial recognition, and fixing sluggish video on monitor walls.

Problem No. 1: Facial Detail at Choke Points

Since the first CCTVs cameras were introduced to Casino Surveillance Departments decades ago, entrances and exits have been a notoriously difficult (yet critical) chokepoint tasked with capturing details about persons entering and exiting casinos. The quality issue can be attributed to a tricky combination of abrupt changes to backlighting from the rising and setting of the sun, light refraction through glass doors constantly opening and closing, static indoor lighting, headlights from moving cars, and the list goes on… As a result, traditional analog and most IP cameras are unable to provide sufficient detail to positively identify persons of interest after an incident occurs.

Solution:

When selecting new IP cameras, look for these features: Anti-bloom to overcome the starring effect of bright light, Wide Dynamic Rangeto capture detail across a wide range of lighting conditions in a single shot, and advanced low light performance with detail at .05 lux. For perspective Wikipedia equates .05 lux to the lowest end of the light of a full moon on a clear night.

Problem No. 2: Suspicious Persons

Does your surveillance department print and post Be on the Lookout’s on the wall or store them in a closed folder? I have visited over one hundred casino surveillance rooms in Las Vegas and across the USA and, in each one, I usually find myself staring at the snapshots of those patrons who have recently been documented for causing problems within the casino. The issue with the placement of these posts is that the BOLs are out of eyeshot from real time operations. Casino watchers will see hundreds if not thousands of patrons each day, and yet are so infrequently exposed to snapshots of the most critical BOL Alerts.

Solution:

Look for a Video Management System with a digital video loop that links to your casino’s photo database. The photo viewer behaves like a slide show, displaying photos of high priority BOLs – right alongside your live surveillance video. Rather than wasting the time (and ink) to print images to post across the room, the looped photo display provides top-of-mind awareness of potential threats.

Problem No. 3: Sharing Video

Any time surveillance footage must travel beyond the capable hands of the surveillance department, all bets are off. For the most part, two techniques are used to share video outside of the surveillance room: (1) Departments purchase separate review stations to be installed outside of the surveillance room or (2) Surveillance departments export video along with a playback client via transferrable media. Many inefficiencies can arise from both situations.

In scenario 1, non-surveillance casino employees (who are usually novices when it comes to VMS) are forced to fumble with a new app to find relevant footage. This process wastes time and resources until the correct video can be identified and reviewed. To make matters worse, the financial burden of paying for this review station usually falls on the surveillance department’s budget.

Scenario 2 is no better because it offloads protected video from a casino’s isolated network and then requires the non-surveillance employee to install a playback application onto non-surveillances computers.

Solution:

Look for a Video Management System that accommodates collaboration across departments and is easy-to-use for VMS experts or novices. (Think of how Google Docs makes it easy for multiple users to share and edit documents in real-time.) Especially valuable is the ability to share multiple video streams, whether they are live or recorded, with observers outside the surveillance room. For example, the F&B Manager can sit down at a client and be shown precisely the video she needs to see for her investigation, and if further forensic investigation is required, the surveillance department can queue up video in real time to deliver conclusive evidence.

Before purchasing a new or upgrading your current system, consider these real-life problems and assure your VMS has the power to solve them.

With New IP VMS Technology, Do We Still Need Separate Pit Cam & Surveillance Systems?

Casino environments are difficult, and, as such, so is the design and implementation of a casino surveillance system.

Historically, whether by design or restriction of available technology, many casinos have operated on separate Pit Cam systems (for surveillance of gaming areas including blackjack, roulette, and baccarat) and general surveillance systems (covering slot/pokie machines, bars and entertainment areas, entrances/exits and public walkways).

Each system has its own core server, recording server and workstations housed in separate locations, and requiring separate teams for operation and maintenance. This dual system approach largely has been due to the available analogue technology, which was leading in its day, and included matrix switches and DVR’s, with BUSS connected PTZ controllers with limitations of cable distances and distribution points. However, an important question has arisen: with new IP Video Management System (VMS) technology, do we still need separate Pit Cam & general surveillance systems?

Among the reasons for preserving dual surveillance systems is the ability to restrict feeds to individual operators, thus assuring their focused attention. IP VMS technology, however, provides the ability to distribute camera feeds to any given point on the CCTV network and can allow or restrict operators to view these individual feeds.

Consider that we no longer have restrictions of cabling distances because the entire system is managed this through carefully designed and engineered network switch points, and all devices connected such as cameras, servers, workstations, spot monitors and PTZ keyboards communicate over this designed IP infrastructure.

Therefore, IP technology allows more flexibility for distributed architecture within all aspects of a complex casino environment. We have the ability to allocate our VMS server and recording hardware in a centrally managed location, but then, through system programming, can create individual “virtual” systems and allow only the relevant users to have access to one or both of these systems. This then offers us the appearance of two individual systems at an operator’s level through aggregation of systems while managing our resources in a more efficient manner. Specifically, the same security and/or IT department can maintain with ease these designs, databases and infrastructure, lowering maintenance and operational costs for the casino and raising efficiencies.

Miki Manjal is a security industry veteran, having spent the last 12 years with Pelco. Manjal leads the development and implementation of Pelco’s global strategic plan within the Casino and Gaming market.  Matthew Horne, Pelco Sales Manager, contributed to this article.

5 Benefits of an Analog-to-IP Upgrade for Casino Surveillance

Surveillance is a mainstay in the casino and gaming industry because it supports a range of business imperatives, including not only the protection of employees, patrons and assets, but also compliance with stringent gaming regulations.

Analog surveillance systems have been the standard for decades in this industry, and are still widely viewed as a safe and secure solution. But the combination of recent advances in IP-based systems, including strong encryption and other new functions, with far superior images and other benefits, have led the migration of casinos to IP-based systems.

The general security surveillance market has already widely embraced IP-based technologies, driving costs down and fueling the continuing addition of new capabilities made possible by digital imaging. These additions include analytics and improved WDR performance, as well as heightened access and transmission security. Understanding the potential benefits of these capabilities will help casino managers determine the right time to upgrade from analog to IP, and how to best employ digital functions to achieve important business objectives.

While analog technology met basic needs at one time, analog systems have inherent qualities that limited their effectiveness, including lower image resolution and the need for time-consuming manual review. Today, digital surveillance systems offer the gaming industry outstanding image quality and a full range of benefits that let casinos meet their business needs with lower operational costs.

When considering a surveillance system upgrade, casinos and the gaming industry look for options that are cost effective, scalable, and provide the best technology for operators in terms of image quality, retention and retrieval of needed video, and user interaction. Upgrading from an analog system to an IP-based digital system will provide these desired qualities and capabilities.

Here are five key benefits of upgrading from an analog to a digital IP system:

  1. Affordability: Upgrading to an IP system doesn’t require breaking the bank. A property can quickly recoup upgrade costs by reducing losses associated with theft and physical damage, as well as by improving operator efficiency. An IP system can run in parallel with an existing analog system, allowing a property to upgrade using a phased approach or taking part in a complete overhaul. And, the cost of digital components has come down significantly in recent years even as capabilities have increased.
  1. Scalability: Casinos and gaming properties continue to expand their physical footprints, adding both gaming spaces and non-gaming spaces such as retail, restaurants, and meeting rooms. A digital surveillance and video management system built on an open platform can easily integrate with your analog and IP equipment, and has the flexibility to scale to meet evolving needs.
  1. Image Quality: Digital camera technology has made impressive advances in offering state of the art image quality, far exceeding that available from analog cameras. High definition signals from current digital cameras are encrypted and transmitted quickly, increasing system security. Among many benefits, sensors now provide better clarity, wider fields of view, and the ability to tackle difficult lighting conditions. Providing these improved views to the operators results in better monitoring, less guesswork, and more efficient investigations.
  1. Storage: Retention is a key component of casino regulations. Upgrading to a digital system lets a facility implement a far more efficient and secure storage strategy. For example, the best systems can not only provide near-instant random access to desired footage based on timecode or metadata tags, but can also use smart compression techniques to increase the reliability and capacity of stored data. These capabilities often let facilities increase the retention time of stored video, while allowing for automated analytics and search functions that are impossible to implement with older analog systems. Further, digital storage systems can easily be configured for RAID redundancy, ensuring critical video can be retrieved when needed.
  1. User Experience: Current IP surveillance systems have also leveraged years of learning in their user interfaces, minimizing the amount of user training required when upgrading. Features and functions are familiar to current operators, and easy for new operators to learn. Improved ease of use benefits normal operations, but really pays off in the response to critical situations, where intuitive interfaces let operators focus on the situation, rather than struggling with controls and settings when seconds count most.

Upgrading an analog system to IP reaps benefits for your casino surveillance operation, and the transition will be easier than you might have expected.