Focus on eConnect: Casino properties increasingly adopt license plate recognition technology

January 13, 2023 8:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
January 13, 2023 8:00 AM

Gaming operators have long deployed cameras at points of entry and on casino floors. But a property’s parking garages and lots haven’t always been similarly protected.

“A lot of the garages were built years ago, and they don’t have cabling, they don’t have wiring, and they don’t have power,” says eConnect Founder, President, and CEO Henry Valentino.

Increasingly, casinos are deploying surveillance technology around properties. Especially with the increase of catalytic converter theft, which has drawn the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, operators recognize the need for increased protective measures for patrons.

“Knowing who’s coming and going in and out of these garages is important,” Valentino says.

Based in Las Vegas, eConnect’s state-of-the-art license plate recognition (LPR) technology provides intelligent software solutions for more than 400 properties in the U.S. and around the world. Similar to the technology used by law enforcement and toll roads to track license plates, eConnect’s cameras are specifically designed for casino properties.

“The camera has enough processing power to take a look at the image coming from the video and to extract the details of the license plate,” says Valentino. “When you combine that with facial recognition, you have a powerful 1-2 punch.”

The first thing eConnect’s LPR technology does is capture an image, “typically based on motion, because it knows approximately where the license plate should be and what the look of the license plate is,” Valentino says. “It basically extracts that like an OCR (optical character recognition) does when you take a picture of a typewritten page. The same thing essentially happens on the end of the camera, where it takes a quick picture, and it extracts those letters and numbers and puts them in a database.”

Valentino admits that some states’ license plates   – such as Montana and Nevada – are harder to read from various angles because of their intricate designs. Personalized license plates also can be problematic. But the company’s LPR technology is able to mitigate any issues and provide accurate reads of the majority of license plates.

eConnect’s technology is used by operators including Caesars Entertainment, Penn Entertainment, and Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. But the genius of the LPR technology is that it also enhances customer service and improves visitation metrics. Valentino says that operators can use data from eConnect’s technology to track visitation time on properties and provide services for VIPs.

At Pechanga Resort Casino, Valentino notes on weekends there are sometimes 40,000 cars parking in the resort’s garages.

“One of the things they’re doing is providing priority parking to VIPs and pre-registered guests,” he says.

eConnect’s LPR technology is the byproduct of requests the company received from an operator. The operator wanted to tie in LPR to other eConnect software so it didn’t have to use a separate program to identify license plates.

“Based on that request and feedback from our users, we built that right in and added that ability to add faces to it, which is both unique on the recognition side and on the license plate recognition side,” Valentino says.

Casinos also can track the frequency of visits and tie that into facial recognition. If a VIP arrives with other people, Valentino says operators can “put them all together in terms of an association. And maybe the next time one of those other associates comes in, somebody will see the notification that they’re associated with a VIP.”

The LPR technology helped one casino solve a major crime. A few years ago, a VIP’s safe containing $75,000 in jewelry and $150,00 in TITO tickets was stolen from their room. There were a lot of questions associated with crime, including “how the heck anybody would even know how to remove a room safe,” Valentino says.

Fortunately, eConnect’s technology captured an image of the getaway car at a loading dock entrance.

Unfortunately, the thieves, who covered their faces with masks and ballcaps, were smart enough to obscure the licenses plate with cardboard.

It seemed like the perfect crime until an executive on the property’s surveillance team decided to look at the history of the VIP’s recent visits – their transactions, buy-ins, time of play – by way of eConnect’s software.

“They ran the facial recognition, and lo and behold three weeks prior the VIP had arrived in the exact same car with the two people who committed the robbery,” Valentino says. “They got the license plate off the car from them arriving together and it was a stolen vehicle. It ended up being a car theft ring as well. This was a big bust that involved the California police department and the Tribal police. It took a little while, but it would have not been figured out without those two (facial and LPR) technologies.”