Launching Digital Surveillance Into the Stratosphere

One of Las Vegas’ most unique hotel/casinos undergoes a $3 million hybrid surveillance overhaul. The project includes 1,792 channels of recording as well as POS, slot management, access control, and analytics/people counting integrations.

The Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower, a Las Vegas icon featuring the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, is undergoing a $20 million renovation by owners American Casino & Entertainment Properties LLC (ACEP). As part of the renovation, Technical Security Integration (TSI) of Lake Stevens, Wash., implemented a complete digital upgrade of the surveillance and security systems protecting the Stratosphere’s gaming integrity and company assets.

The Stratosphere is known for having some of the most unique amenities in Las Vegas, including the Top of the World revolving restaurant, the highest indoor and outdoor observation decks in Las Vegas, and the three highest amusement rides in the world including its newest attraction SkyJump, a controlled freefall thrill ride 855 feet above the Las Vegas Strip. The 80,000-square-foot casino includes approximately 50 table games, 1,500 slot and video poker machines, a poker room and a race and sportsbook.

Converting the existing tape surveillance system to digital recording was a business decision to improve operations, according to Jerry McCawley, vice president of Corporate Surveillance for ACEP.

Open, Hybrid Platform Sought
When it came to choosing the system for the Stratosphere upgrade, ACEP’s McCawley knew they wanted to invest in nonproprietary technology that wouldn’t lock them into one sole supplier. They also wanted a hybrid system that would enable them to use existing analog cameras and still be able to add IP cameras as the property expands.
Ultimately ACEP chose a digital recording system from Synectics, with a Pelco CM9780 matrix and Optelecom fiber optics.

“While I was a deputy gaming commissioner with Viejas Casino in San Diego, Synectics was recommended by the surveillance department there after they had completed a long-term test of the system,” says McCawley. “Synectics’ reporting and search features and intuitive, easy-to-use GUI were major factors in our decision.”

As part of preparing an airtight bid for the Stratosphere retrofit, TSI Founder/Owner Craig Swankosky conducted a Q&A session with McCawley and his team to determine how they wanted to use the new system. He also toured the site, including all the control and server rooms, to evaluate every aspect of what was specified in the RFP.

The casino already had more than 1,500 working fixed and pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) analog cameras within its existing infrastructure. McCawley knew the Stratosphere would eventually implement IP technology that included ‘edge’-based analytics. The Synectics system was ideal for this scenario because it seamlessly connects analog and a multitude of IP options to create the pathway for that migration.

“With a retrofit, there can be a lot of skeletons in the closet. Unless we go to each of the existing rooms and see how things are run, how everything’s put together, what kind of infrastructure is in place, we can’t truly determine what kind of problems might arise,” says Swankosky. “Because of our onsite review we knew exactly what we were getting into, and we could engineer the best solution right from the start.”

The new system provides surveillance coverage for the front (public nongaming areas) and back of house (hallways, kitchen, break room), gaming (table games, slots, etc.), parking, hotel, retail and money handling. Since the majority of cameras for the new system were already in place, TSI was responsible for head-end installation only (except for the addition of 15 IP cameras to provide analytics).


To enable use of Synectics’ Dataveillance tool, TSI will facilitate integration to the existing access control, intruder detection, point-of-sale (POS), slot management and player tracking systems once the core installation is complete. By using integrated data from these disparate third-party systems and then applying appropriate rule sets, Stratosphere’s surveillance operators will be able to identify suspicious behavior or patterns that can help reveal fraud and cheat scams taking place beyond the view of the camera.

“The Dataveillance tool hones the surveillance operator’s ability to act as both investigator and forensic analyst by enabling predictive profiling and alarms of fraudulent events,” says John Katnic, COO of Synectics. “With an increasing demand for analytic intelligence in security and related departments, this custom automated tool can help monitor many operational components within a gaming enterprise including access control, crowd management and traffic patterns to name a few.”

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