Security Technology Brings Big Win to Casino
By Samuel Greengard
Operating a casino is an extremely complex endeavor. Overseeing gaming machines, tables, guests and a steady stream of activities can tax a security department to the limit. Remarkably, many casinos—despite their glitzy exteriors and posh interiors—continue to rely on VCRs, tapes and antiquated surveillance equipment. These analog systems aren't able to provide the level of scrutiny required in today's world.
However, the Muscogee Creek Nation is among a handful of casinos turning to next-generation video technology and other advanced IT solutions to take gaming security into the 21st century. "Digital technology offers many advantages,” says B.J. Waggnor, director of operations for the tribe's Office of Public Gaming (OPG), located in Okmulgee, Okla. "It allows us to cut down on cheating and an array of other problems, including theft, drugs and other crimes that occur in or around casinos."
The tribe, which operates 11 casinos (each of which brings in between $5 million and $15 million in revenues annually), has already installed digital video surveillance technology at six of its casinos and plans to deploy Avigilon high-definition surveillance systems across the entire enterprise in the months ahead. Digital video recorders provide near-instant access to events over 16 channels, and cameras combined with software allow an operator to zoom in at up to 4x on the image. Windows-based servers each manage about 75 cameras.
The system also provides so-called masking capabilities that can track people and objects. "If you place a small circle around a purse, the system will automatically track it through all the video and detect any motion surrounding it," Waggnor explains, adding that the relevant frame will appear immediately. "So you can quickly see the person who grabbed the purse." The system also offers real-time switching of cameras and can show an event from different angles at time ranging from 5 minutes to 14 days in the past.
The digital technologies represent a significant step forward. Older surveillance tools, including analog cameras and VHS tapes, produce grainy footage that makes it difficult to distinguish people and objects. What's more, the recordings are frequently not up to the standards required for court evidence. As a result, many casinos are unable to gather usable evidence to dispute false claims or uncover the truth when customers believe they have won a hand and beat the dealer, but actually didn't.
The video system has already paid significant dividends. The OPG has a 90 percent success rate on employee theft and collusion investigations, while surveillance officers have reduced investigation periods by 50 percent. Meanwhile, The OPG has trimmed the number of storage racks it requires by 75 percent, while ratcheting up its compliance capabilities. It must adhere to compliance standards from the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), a regulatory compliance body that has the power to fine or close casinos that do not adhere to standards.
The tribe's surveillance extends to other areas as well. For example, the OPG uses specialized software that detects unusual winning patterns and other anomalies. Meanwhile, the industry is embracing an array of other technologies, including license plate readers that can detect gambling addicts and cheats, facial recognition systems, and chips with RFID tracking.