Casino System Leaves Nothing to Chance

When the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians erected its new gaming facility in northern Michigan, the tribe meticulously planned for a state-of-the-art video system that integrated access control and other security features. Get an insider’s look at how the tribe’s success was destined from the beginning.

Editor’s Note: While we prefer to bring you installation profiles as a passive participant, the Odawa Casino is a unique opportunity to give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes vantage point. The author was intimately involved in planning and executing the sophisticated video solution at the recently opened gaming resort in northern Michigan and is able to provide our readers with a true “insider” perspective. He is describing events that he helped shape, and the only way to do that is by telling the story in the first person. 

Most consultants, integrators and other professionals involved with large-scale security projects tend to develop a sixth sense. We learn to pinpoint problems in the early going and then formulate the necessary adjustments to be successful. 

This added sensitivity is important to us, as it occasionally helps us identify those projects that are doomed from the start. Since the survival of your business is often dependent on the success of your projects, it is important to recognize and embrace your “gut instinct.”

Far more uncommon is the project that incites a gut feeling from the get-go that success is inevitable. Indeed, it is rare to find a job that has the necessary backing from upper management, openness to new technology, and a well-defined process for project planning, procurement and rapid problem resolution. 

The video surveillance installation at Odawa Casino, located near the waters of Lake Michigan in Petoskey, Mich., was such a project. The design included two control rooms and auxiliary monitoring locations, encompassing a new casino, parking structure, special events area and a remote waste water treatment plant. All of it secured with full integration between video, access control and other gaming systems. While I’d like to say I was pleasantly surprised, all of us involved with this project genuinely knew it would succeed from the start.

Success Begins With Adoption of ‘Qualifications Selection’ Process
In large part, the project’s expected triumph was due to the tribe’s embracement of the Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) process, according to Kevin Kane, an owner’s representative for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (LTBB), which operates the gaming resort.

“This is a nationwide program that is based on prequalifying vendors, interviewing where necessary and then negotiating fees,” Kane says. “This allowed us to select vendors with a proven track record and the skills needed for us to succeed, while still meeting our cost and budgetary objectives. In fact, the entire project finished not only on time, which is not uncommon for casino projects, but under budget, which is certainly the exception.” 

Prior to designing the solution, and even before the project got off the ground, the surveillance focus group was tasked with crafting system requirements to a rough order of magnitude and setting the budget. This group — consisting of the tribe’s CFO, general manager, regulatory director, surveillance manager, surveillance lead technician and owners’ representatives — had a general idea of what they needed the system to perform. They desired a wall of video monitors that would display numerous cameras simultaneously, plus operator stations free of distractions and enough room to work effectively and comfortably. 

“We are thankful to be working for a tribe that has vision and wanted to make sure that our part of the puzzle fit into their picture,” says Vince Cook, regulatory director for LTBB.

Tribe Prepares for Gaming Future Informed by Past Experiences
The members of LTBB were no strangers to analog and digital video. Prior to the Odawa Casino project they owned and operated the nearby Victories Casino with its 16 gaming tables and 1,100 slot machines, plus restaurants, a bar and other amenities. The tribe had already upgraded its analog recording solution to a NiceVision Pro 200 Series DVR system. The old facility also had a Pelco matrix switch and more than 300 cameras from various manufacturers, both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) models.

“Our system had grown through evolution,” explains LTBB’s surveillance manager Tom Gould. “We knew that the new facility would allow us to make a fresh start, both from a technical and an operational perspective, and we were looking forward to applying what we have learned over the years.” 

One of the things they had learned was they did not want to go it alone; a consultant would be essential to the new project. The new facility — with about 50,000–square feet of gaming floor space — would be much bigger, including 1,500 slots, 30 tables, a special events area, more amenities and considerable room for growth. The camera coverage would also be greatly enhanced, with roughly 800 cameras, more operators and a great deal more technology to manage the operation. As part of the product and vendor selection process, the tribe first needed to find the right consultant to guide them.

“We wanted someone who could look at our needs and expectations and guide us in making choices,” explains Kane. One example: the existing system had a video wall, consisting of a bank of monitors, all individually controlled through the matrix switching system. While this allowed for real-time video refresh on each screen, it would not provide much operational flexibility, was expensive to implement (a much larger matrix switch would have been required), and would have consumed substantial space in the room. 

The final design included front projection of video images fed through the digital side of the system, thereby reducing cost and adding the ability to dynamically resize images as needed, depending on what transpired in the facility at the time. “The decision to put video quality on the desk rather than on the wall was the right one for our application, but we probably wouldn’t have come up with that on our own,” Kane says.

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