Video Surveillance at the Casino. Features and Pitfalls

The task of ensuring casino security is quite extensive. This article gives recommendations on the equipment of the gaming room – the “heart” of any casino – video surveillance and audio control system. Of course, these systems are only part of the technical and organizational measures that are usually carried out in casinos for security purposes.

Principal differences

CCTV system in casino gaming rooms is fundamentally different from security surveillance systems. In a conventional security television system (CCTV), the main task – to register the fact of penetration of an intruder into the protected area and, as a rule, an alarm notification to the guards about this event. As a rule, for these purposes it is enough to see on the screen the silhouette of the intruder, who, for example, climbed over the fence.

A triggered motion detector of the recorder will generate an alarm signal and a buzzer will “wake up” the operator or guard, who will have to take measures to apprehend the intruder. In such a system it is quite possible, for example, not to distinguish colors and not to recognize faces, the main thing is not to miss the passage of the object through the protected area. The situation in the casino is fundamentally different. The video surveillance system in the gaming rooms security function is secondary, but there are two other incomparably more complex tasks: total control of the gameplay on the tables and exposing possible fraudulent actions of visitors and (or) casino employees.

Casino – a “tidbit” for scammers and thieves, who can use the most modern technical means to implement their plans, as well as bribing employees, etc. There are cases when scammers managed to pull millions out of the casino, and the most successful “combinations” we probably will never know.

It is safe to say that all the long existing casinos have been attacked by scammers many times. Often the amounts they were able to take possession of, many times higher than the cost of the entire video surveillance system. In addition, there are cases where even an honest player makes a mistake and claims to have won, mixing up, for example, the neighboring fields. In this case, a clear demonstration of the record game process will help to extinguish the conflict in the beginning and, most importantly, to maintain customer loyalty to the casino.

Ways to solve problems

There are two ways to solve these problems: installing one or two rotating cameras above each table or installing fixed cameras above the tables.

In the first case, each CCTV operator must have no more than one or two desks.

Operators must:

have a clear idea of not only the meaning of the game, but also know about the possible fraudulent techniques of players and their own dealers (croupier), be able to quickly make complex and responsible decisions.

Of course, to find so many specialists, to equip jobs for them and pay them the appropriate salary is not an easy task, especially in the regions. That is why in real life one operator often has to control 3-5 or sometimes more tables at the same time (despite all the recommendations). In addition, regardless of the operator’s actions, an effective “handling” of conflict situations requires at least a detailed record of the actions that took place at each table.

This task is solved by two fixed cameras installed above each game table with partially overlapping fields of view. One camera, as practice shows, does not allow you to view the archive confidently distinguish the values of cards or chips on the entire area of the table, as well as control the wheel (on roulette tables).

On card tables for playing “Black Jack” and “Poker” at “live” supervision one camera can “at a limit” recognize nominal values of cards, but at record even on the most qualitative recorder the resolution inevitably decreases, and at viewing of archive of cards on the far end of a table “read” badly. Installation of rotary cameras as the main means of control is not only not obligatory, but, in my opinion, even harmful, because the operator can “run over” one point and irrevocably lose the information from the neighboring part of the table.

The recognition of maps (or chips) takes place in very difficult conditions: the light from the spotlights creates strong glare on the glossy surfaces of maps, and the illumination level is very low. Besides, often red colour of cards is so dark that even by a human eye at certain illumination and a sight angle it is perceived as black. Advantages include constancy of illumination and fixed distance to the objects under observation (in this case – to maps and chips).

Requirements for video cameras

The table control camera should be able to work out the glare well while keeping the image both in the light and in the dark areas. Of course, the good old analogue BLC system (backlight compensation) will not do it easily. In the “battle” go cameras with powerful DSP on board. Optimal, but also the most expensive are cameras that process the signal in pixels.

In this case, the signal from each individual image element (village pixel) is processed separately. The influence of neighboring pixels on each other is minimal, thus avoiding “floating” and “poles” on the screen and thus expanding the dynamic range. For this task seems a little outdated and the system of processing by zones (when the signal from each group of pixels is processed separately), which arose in the era of low-bit DSP, which could not yet process the signal simultaneously with each pixel. The problem is that each zone is quite large, areas with different light levels (e.g. glare from a lamp and dark suit icon) may get into it, and recognition may not take place.

Given the generally low level of light on the tables, you should pay attention to the sensitivity of the camera: otherwise, in addition to reducing the brightness and contrast, the image will be “noisy”, which will lead to the impossibility of effective digital processing and compression, and as a consequence, to significant artifacts while viewing the recording.

Due to the speed of the ongoing gameplay – to get rid of “blurred images” – it is advisable to fix the electronic shutter at a value of 1 / 500 s or even less. Unfortunately, this leads to weakening of the signal, reducing the signal-to-noise ratio, so in each case it is necessary to look for some acceptable compromise. The choice of lens is also important.

Typically, varifocal (for accurate field of view adjustment) lenses with manual aperture are used. In this case, the auto iris is not needed, as the lighting on the tables is constant. Of course, the higher the luminous intensity of the lens, the better. If the TV’s sensitivity allows, it is advisable to cover the lens aperture slightly to increase the depth of field. In order to be able to distinguish between maps and chips, cameras must also have excellent color reproduction in addition to high resolution (which goes without saying). In the extreme case it is acceptable to distort the color a little, but it is necessary that it is different from the colors of other chips and maps.

Camera used for video surveillance in the gaming room, should have a maximum of manual settings, such as: white balance, electronic shutter, DSP modes and others. This will allow you to adjust the image parameters so that they correspond to the conditions of a particular hall, with its lighting, color temperature of illuminators, their location relative to the cameras and game tables, etc.

Speed swivel cameras

The Speed Dome in casino gaming rooms is mainly used to counter fraud and as an additional tool to control the gameplay itself. Typically installed at the rate of one camera to one or two gaming tables, rotary cameras allow the operator to examine in detail the actions of any player or dealer from 2-3 sides simultaneously. When choosing a swivel camera (as well as a stationary camera), you must remember that the conditions of its operation will be very difficult and that the dynamic range of the camera should be very wide.

Of course, it is important the index of multiplicity of the zoom angle change (usually not less than 20 times, without taking into account the digital zoom); the presence of presets that allow you to instantly return to viewing the most critical areas; good color reproduction, as well as sufficient sensitivity and high resolution CCD.

The sophisticated mechanics of a high-speed rotary camera must work quickly, clearly and reliably. The choice of a serious, ‘branded’ product that is well established on the market will be optimal. Given the constant level of light and the great importance of color of objects, it is not necessary to use a “day / night” cameras, switching to black and white mode in low light conditions. This recommendation applies to both fixed and rotary cameras.


A microphone should be placed next to each camera. Sound accompaniment will help in possible proceedings and will give more reliability to the video material, especially since the cost of microphones is about one or two percent of the cost of the cameras and does not increase the estimate too much. At installation of a microphone it is necessary to adhere to usual rules:

  • Ensure minimal acoustic contact with the ceiling (e.g. by wrapping the microphone with the amplifier in foam);
  • to remove or acoustically isolate microphones from air conditioning and ventilation systems as far as possible;
  • adjust the sensitivity of all microphones to an average level so as not to overload the audio input of the recorder and not to reconfigure the volume of the audio speakers every time they switch from channel to channel.

Recording and Playback Tools

It’s time to talk about registration and playback tools. Over the past 5 years, the industry has made almost complete transition to digital video recording. To find now a professional S-VHS video recorder and cassettes to it is not easy even in Nebraska.

Therefore, let us consider the two most frequently used options: Stand Alone video recorders and multi-channel computer registration systems.

Recording gameplay in the casino is constantly, so motion detectors are not used in practice. This allows you to take Stand Alone or hardware PC-based DVR with maximum resolution and frame rate per-written, but not the most perfect detectors. Any multiplexing or “square-boxing” in this case is completely unacceptable. Multi-channel (for example, 16-channel) Stand Alone-registrators with synchronous audio recording for each channel and real-time video recording with D1 resolution (full frame) are extremely rare (I am not aware of them). Single-channel recorders, specially designed to replace S-VHS-recorders, have become very popular. High resolution, sound recording and network integration make these DVRs a good alternative to computer systems.

The main disadvantages of single-channel recorders – high (over 30,000 rubles) price and large size when recording several dozens of video and audio signals. Computer recording systems on boards with hardware signal processing allow you to record 16-32 channels of video in Real Time/D1 mode with synchronous audio for each channel to one video server. Of course, systems on boards with software signal processing do not cope with this amount of information, and they can only be used when the number of channels does not exceed ten.

When choosing a system, you should pay attention to the possibility of connecting several monitors to the server, because 32 and even 16 images are too many for one operator and too small for one monitor. In addition to servers, it is recommended to install a number of client workstations so that the monitor screen (with a diagonal of at least 19 inches) does not have more than 9, or better than 4 “pictures” simultaneously. Fixed cameras broadcasting the image from one gaming table should be placed next to each other so that a single picture would appear on the monitor.

It is most convenient to control rotary cameras from control panels connected to monitors via matrix switcher. Even if the digital surveillance system allows you to control the “turn” from the program, the “native” joystick is still much more convenient, and the quality of analog signal before digitization is higher. The possibility of simultaneous operation of several consoles and monitors, almost complete absence of failures and “hang-ups” allows in this case to keep basically the control over the gaming room even in case of damage or failure of video recorders, computer network, etc. Video signal to DVR is fed directly from the through outputs of the matrix switch, without any amplifiers-distributors.

CCTV system protection

Special attention should be paid to the need to protect the video surveillance system from damage of both accidental and malicious nature. To protect against voltage drops in the mains, it is necessary to use uninterruptible power supplies for all system components. They should provide at least 10 minutes of autonomous operation of the entire complex and give out a sinusoidal voltage of a given amplitude of 220 V, for which the equipment is designed.

The computer network of the video surveillance system should be completely separate, not connected to the common network of the building. All elements of the system, including network switches and cable management, must be securely protected and inaccessible to intruders.

One or two CCTV cameras with microphones in the CCTV room can be installed to monitor and record operators’ actions, and operators themselves should not be authorized to work with these cameras. Of course, even the best CCTV system will not bring results without a set of organizational measures, including the preparation of clear instructions and a list of rights and obligations of all security personnel (from the CCTV operator to the security guard), with their mandatory education and training. In addition to the game hall, video surveillance systems shall be equipped with cash desks, reception areas, corridors and recreation rooms. They must cover the street area adjacent to the entrance and the car park.

These are typical tasks familiar to every installer. In conclusion, it is likely that the casino will be the main consumer of megapixel network cameras in the future. Higher resolution will allow with the help of one camera will confidently control in all details the whole gaming table, and initially digital signal will save from inevitable nowadays losses of image quality during “digitization”.