The Smart Approach to Protecting Casinos

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"I am not looking to replace staff. I am looking to enhance the business and add intelligence to all of our operations. Yes, I want to be able to utilize the camera system to follow-up or investigate issues that may present themselves. But it is all about integrating together as much of the information as we can get from various systems in our database platform and running analytics," Hoke concluded. "That is what will make this a powerful tool for our business."

Examining the challenges

Those working in the business, like Tom Dallmann, president of Dallmann Systems, Jeffersonville, Ind., expect their manufacturers to build the required smarts into the software they provide with their systems. He has seen interest in casinos linking surveillance and POS. But there are challenges.

"It takes a concerted effort to work with the customer's IT people," said Dallmann. "They are the ones in charge of the cash register data."

"Casinos are their own special animal," agreed Miller. He pointed to the gaming security requirements, state regulations, the financial issues and how quickly casinos expect jobs to be completed as part of the challenge. "They want to be in the end zone before they get started," he said. "Keep in mind that casinos do not shut down at 5 p.m. They are 24/7 operations and keep a grueling pace."

"Security directors have to see themselves as more than regulatory box boys. They have to broaden the scope of their jobs and realize they have to generate revenue just like any other department," said Katnic. He confirmed that it is the job of dealers and integrators to help surveillance directors see themselves as more than visual cops.

"They have to be data cops-integrating data from everyone's departments to do the job," Katnic continued. "That is the way their job will develop."

While acknowledging that one department will pay for the surveillance system, he said every department can benefit from it.

Security requirements specific to the industry require networks separate for the gaming components than for the back-of-house operations and the IP video surveillance networks. A good example is a casino with 1,000 slot machines. Each of these machines will require a cable for the machine itself, for the card swipe on the machine and for the digital signage announcing jackpots and the likes. That means there are 3,000 cable pulls on the floor for that area alone.

Developments continue on the strip

A large-scale integration of people counting, POS system data, slot machines and time clocks is underway at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. It is expected to be complete early in 2011.

"The theme is convergence," according to Katnic. "Integration is building momentum. As everything begins to move to digital the systems in use will begin to speak the same language," he said.

When Technical Security Integration Inc. (TSI), Oxnard, Calif., put in the system for the Stratosphere, they managed to save the casino almost a roomful of space. "They have two separate departments that monitor cameras but one matrix," said TSI Chief Executive Officer Craig "Swanny" Swankosky. Surveillance sees cameras both inside and outside but floor security sees only the gaming floor.

"We were going to divide the matrix into two rooms. But we were able to put it in with all of the digital equipment in one room," Swankosky continued. This was not part of the original plan but something TSI realized would be a big boost to the Stratosphere, given the cost of a square foot of floor space. "We eliminated 40 racks," Swankosky noted.

While TSI is one of the few integrators that guarantee no change orders as long as the overall scope of the job does not change, this was a case where they had a good relationship with the casino and saw a chance to help the client. The Stratosphere had researched IP-based systems for four years before awarding TSI.

"The big thing is communication with the customer," Swankosky said. "We tell them what we are doing, what is coming next. There are no surprises."

While they follow plans religiously, they leave room for interpretation and flexibility.

"The big thing as an integrator on any job is your relationship with the customer," Swankosky added. "If you build a relationship, when a hiccup comes they are more apt to be supportive. It pays to be nice."

Data linkage is critical

"Datavalence" is emerging as a product category in itself. It requires linking visual data-from the cameras-to transactional or alarm data. But it is not a smooth evolution. Some 99 percent of data is benign. The challenge is to recognize and act on the tiny fraction that is not.