High-tech protection for high rollers at Tropicana casinos
Mar 1, 1998 12:00 PM
As cheating becomes more sophisticated, so do prevention methods, including advanced security surveillance. technology.
Since the late 1980s, gaming has spread steadily and surely across the country, becoming a favorite American pastime. More than 32 states permit and regulate wagering, with more states jumping on the gaming-revenue bandwagon every day. Billions of dollars are collected annually in the gaming industry, and with that much revenue passing through so many hands, it is no wonder that temptation runs rampant in casinos.
The gambling environment exposes both the casino and its patrons to risk. Crimes of cheating the house, pilfering and larceny can erode entertainment value - and the casino's profits. Casinos spend millions of dollars on the latest high-tech security equipment to maintain a safe environment for customers and employees, and to prevent costly lawsuits that could result from a crime committed against a visitor on the premises. In today's electronic revolution, cheating has become more sophisticated, and so have the mechanics of security surveillance.
Tropicana, Las Vegas Thomas Boyd, director of surveillance at the Tropicana Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, recently upgraded the security operation there to include a Philips CCTV surveillance system. "The last time the system was upgraded was in 1972, so it needed it," says Boyd. He chose Philips primarily because of the TC700 Autodome System. "I thought the dome was an excellent choice for this property," explains Boyd. "I really like its functions: auto-focus, shot call capabilities, and it jumps from one point to the other automatically. The auto-flip at the bottom also helps when you're following people."
The Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas is home to about 60,000 square feet of casino, which is surveyed by 132 domes and 106 fixed cameras trained on slot areas, table games, cage, hard count, soft count, keno and sports book. Two cameras are behind the scenes and are not installed in the casino. All the cameras run 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and vigilant eyes behind the cameras watch from the surveillance room. The cameras allow close observation of a person or group displaying suspicious activity.
The surveillance room typically has several operators working at once. One may be doing research, or searching the casino for suspicious activity such as someone trying to use slugs, or preying on elderly people who are not paying attention to their handbag or cup of coins. One surveillance station is kept free to handle incoming calls and respond to medical emergencies, patron-assist calls and similar calls from the floor. The remaining station focuses on the high-action games. Surveillance operators rely on pit personnel to keep them informed as to which games have the high action on them. Pit personnel do so via telephone so operators can give extra camera coverage to those games.
The Autodome allows operators to zoom in on a subject, a hand, the dealer's actions, or to track a person moving from one point to another on the floor - even if they walk directly under the camera.
Tropicana, Atlantic City The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is the largest hotel in the state of New Jersey. A paradise of gaming options, the casino boasts 128,000 square feet of playing space. Hereis the primary installation of Philips' new Allegiant microprocessor-based video switcher/controller, the LTC8900 Series (see sidebar). The system offers full matrix switching capability and can be programmed to display video from any camera or monitor, manually or via independent automatic switching sequences.
Both Tropicana locations tape and review video, because gaming requires that tape be archived for seven days. If tapes are not needed after seven days, they can be erased and used again. If a tape is needed for evidence, copies can be taped so that the casino has a copy and the original can be packaged as evidence and released to the state police.
The Tropicana in Atlantic City has a variety of equipment that has been integrated into its security system. "We've just started to add a lot of color cameras, a lot of Autodomes, which spin around 360 degrees with no stops," says Doug Barrett, shift supervisor at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.
The installer for the Tropicana properties was Global Surveillance Associates (GSA), a Nevada-based company with offices in Las Vegas and New Jersey that sells to the worldwide gaming industry and other industries with surveillance requirements. Dan Riley, president of GSA, wrote the proposals for the two systems. "GSA came in and not only gave us new equipment, but also fixed the older equipment so it would line up," says Boyd.
In most casinos, the surveillance department is one of the smallest departments with the biggest responsibilities. Surveillance rooms are restricted areas, usually located off the casino floor and compact in size. "The Philips system doesn't take up a whole lot of space, which impresses me," says Boyd. "I think we're up to 384 positions, and we're not maxed out yet. I also like the fact that the system is housed in two racks."
Eye on Tropicana in Atlantic City The microprocessor-based video switcher/controller that helps secure the Tropicana in Atlantic City, the LTC8900 Series, accommodates up to 4,096 camera inputs, 512 monitor outputs, 64 keyboards, 1,024 alarm points, computer interface ports and a logging printer port. The CPU bay includes a main CPU/power supply that incorporates automatic switch-over to backup CPU/power supply in case of primary power failure. These systems can be programmed with up to 256 sequences, which can be run independently of each other in forward or reverse. Any of the sequences can use the SalvoSwitching capability, which allows any number of system monitors to switch as a group. Using the TC8950 software package, sequences can be made to activate and deactivate automatically, based on time of day and day of the week.