Cherokee Nation Entertainment first opened its casino resort back in 2004, including nearly 2,000 analog cameras to help the four-star resort secure operations. While the décor of splashy neon lights, twinkling LEDs, bright strobes and spotlights made for an exciting atmosphere for patrons, it played havoc on the cameras’ ability to deliver the image clarity the surveillance team needed to protect the property. Washed out or blurry video made it difficult to comply with the stringent regulations that govern all casino surveillance operations.

In 2016 the organization began systematically replacing the legacy cameras with a portfolio of high-performance Axis network cameras and a Milestone XProtect video management system. “We standardized on Axis cameras — a mix of fixed dome, bullet, pan/tilt/ zoom and panoramic — for our variable lighting environment,” states John Underwood, Surveillance Technology Manager for Cherokee Nation Entertainment.

Over the years, Underwood’s team has continued to upgrade their facilities’ surveillance systems with new camera models to keep pace with the latest lighting innovations. For instance, when the casino introduced a new type of LED backlit roulette wheel with an animated lighting sequence, Underwood’s team installed an AXIS Q17 Bullet Camera Series above the table to capture the true colors of any lammer disks laid down on the tabletop. “Accurate representation of a lammer’s color is especially critical, since the disk shows surveillance what amount of money or chips has been taken from a player or dealer,” explains Underwood.

Watching 120,000 square feet of constant action

Thousands of people flock to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa every day to enjoy its 2,400 electronic games, 40 table games, poker room, music venues and restaurants. Each of those areas presents its own challenges to surveillance. “We have a lot of areas with high open ceilings or video walls surrounding the area,” explains Underwood. “So we’ve relied on different varifocal lenses on our cameras to achieve the coverage we need without being too intrusive on the gaming floor.”

“We’re not only looking at the value of the card or chip, we’re also looking for sleight-of-hand tricks like a patron adding to their bet when they think the dealer isn’t watching, or slipping a chip or two off their bet stack when they think they have a losing hand,” shares Underwood.

In the food service areas, risk managers rely heavily on the mix of fixed dome cameras to oversee compliance with safety practices. “The cameras help us document accidents and determine liability, make sure staff is handling food and tools properly, trace the source of shrink and a host of other issues that affect the safety and profitability of our food venues,” says Underwood.

Keeping a sharp eye on back-of-house activity

As the supply hub for the property, the casino warehouse contains a wealth of merchandise — from highly regulated items such as cards, dice, chips and slot machine components to housekeeping and hospitality provisions. “We employ a lot of multisensor and panoramic cameras at the warehouse because they give us wide fields of view without losing picture quality,” states Underwood. 

For added security, loading docks are equipped with network video door stations for two-way communication to control access to the area. Truck drivers use the intercom to announce their arrival at the dock. This gives the warehouse employee time to verify the driver’s identity before lifting the bay doors to accept delivery.

The resort also replaced legacy emergency call boxes with Axis Network Video Door Stations in their parking lots and parking structures. The door stations provide two-way audio so that people can report suspicious activity or request assistance. A mix of Axis and 2N intercoms also provide access control to restricted areas like corporate offices.

Listening for potential problems

Underwood augmented certain cameras on the property with audio analytics to detect specific acoustic wave patterns like voices raised in verbal aggression and discharging weapons. When the software, which was developed by Sound Intelligence, detects such sound patterns, it immediately sends an alert to the surveillance control room to look at the video streaming from that location.

“The analytics give us an extra level of situational awareness that we never had before,” says Underwood. “It helps us be more proactive, especially when it comes to preventing verbal aggression from escalating into physical altercations.”

The audio analytics has been particularly beneficial at ascertaining aggression at certain entrances to the property, as well as parking structures and high-risk cash handling areas.

Watching for severe weather

Because severe weather is a way of life in Oklahoma, Hard Rock includes Axis cameras in its storm watch efforts. “We live in a state that faces an average of 56 tornados a year, not to mention countless ice and dust storms,” says Underwood. “If there’s a dangerous storm heading our way, we might need to evacuate everyone from the gaming floor and hotel rooms and move them to a safer, more protected area.”

As part of its emergency preparedness, Hard Rock mounted an AXIS Q60 PTZ Camera on a rooftop, giving the resort a bird’s eye view of the property to monitor approaching storms and assess property damage once the storm abates. “Highly experienced staff are tasked with keeping an eye on weather reports and watching the storm front as it rolls in,” states Underwood. “Depending on the attributes they see, they send an alert to the emergency response team.”

Maintaining a dialog about future improvements

“Everything we roll out to the other casinos run by the Cherokee Nation, we test here first,” declares Underwood.