Iowa Casino Goes All-In on IP Video Surveillance

The WinnaVegas Casino Resort recently pushed its chips into a major facilities expansion. It raised the stakes, gambling on the ability to integrate an existing analog surveillance system with new networked cameras and VMS – and won big.

NEARLY TWO DOZEN CASINOS, multibillion-dollar revenues, bright lights, big gaming opportunities, luxurious hotel and dining accommodations for the state’s top tourist attraction … is this Vegas? As Kevin Costner famously replied in “Field of Dreams” when asked about his backyard baseball field, “No, it’s Iowa.” Though better known for its cornfields, Iowa, like many other states during the past quarter- century, has capitalized on the cash crop of legalized gambling with a mix of tribal and nontribal, riverboat and land based casinos. According to a 2014 USA Today report that tracked states’ commercial gambling revenues from the previous two years, Iowa’s casinos (not to mention racetracks) generated $1.47 billion, which ranked 10th highest in the nation.

Of course while the tourists get to have their fun and games, everyone knows “the house” always wins. Let’s consider the house in this case to be the overall economy of the region, in which the casino industry has created some 16,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues to local, state and federal governments, according to the American Gaming Association. And of course, where there’s lots of money at stake, there’s high demand for security and surveillance. Walk into any casino, whether in Iowa, Las Vegas or elsewhere and you’ll spot ubiquitous eyes in the sky (or on the ceiling at least) and know there’s also a backroom where banks of displays and video recorders monitor all of those cameras.

One such Iowa casino, the Winnebago Tribe owned-and-operated WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, opened in 1992 but recently experienced the need to beef up its surveillance thanks to a 2014 expansion that included a larger poker room, renovated bingo area, more slot machines and new bistro. This was on the heels of the opening of the casino’s 78-room WinnaVegas Hotel in 2012. It all added up to another opportunity for WinnaVegas to enlist the aid of its longstanding relationship with security integrator North American Video (NAV) and the resources of favored supplier Tyco Security Products. Discussions with principals involved reveal why this technology expansion was more of a sure thing than a gamble.

Integrator Game for Video Install

Following the 2014 expansion, the 24-hour casino’s gaming options now include more than 850 slot machines, 10 table games, an eight-table poker room and bingo facility. The attached hotel includes a pool, fitness area and arcade, and there’s also an events center with several community meeting rooms. Also factoring in the hundreds of events hosted there each year, including live music, tournaments and more, WinnaVegas attracts about 43,000 guests each month. That’s a load of people to monitor, not to mention the 400+ employees throughout the facility who work in the main casino, sports casino, kitchen/buffet, administrative offices, annex, water treatment facility, hotel, prefunction bingo lobby, events center and 40-room inn and garage (WinnaVegas has roughly 750 parking spaces).

The WinnaVegas attracts roughly 43,000 guests per month, with a 78-room hotel and 750 parking spots also under watch.

Because of the large volume of employees and guests entering and exiting the facilities, as well as the expanded gaming areas (now covering 54,000+ square feet), WinnaVegas stakeholders wanted an enhanced security solution that would simplify day-to-day operations, tie together surveillance of its various spaces, and be highly efficient, easy to use and scalable. The casino resort also required that new IP video cameras seamlessly integrate with existing analog models.

Additionally, as a longtime end user that had deployed Tyco Security Products’ American Dynamics products, WinnaVegas brass requested to be able to leverage its existing American Dynamics equipment into an integrated security system. Casino management wanted to streamline its security operations by integrating its access control system with its video surveillance system to provide a holistic, unified security picture, matching doors with cameras and using the integrated solution’s analytics to better address events. The scalability aspect would also afford WinnaVegas the option of using the unified security system to connect its property with other local casinos (there are two neighboring tribally owned casinos).

More: Are Security Integrators Ready to Take a Gamble on the Gaming Market?

Once the ball was rolling, WinnaVegas Lead Technician Surveillance Joe Twaddle, who has worked at the casino virtually from its inception, got to work discussing scope and design in consultation with NAV System Sales Executive Rich Branda, who served as project lead, and Tyco Security Products Senior National Account Manager Larry Wanvig. NAV was the natural choice for the expansion with its familiarity of having worked previously with Twaddle and WinnaVegas. “Oh they’re like the jewel in my crown,” Twaddle says of the systems integrator. “I’ve called Rich Branda in the middle of the night and he’s helped me out. I can’t imagine anybody that can top these guys.”

For its part, NAV’s expertise with enterprise-class, mission-critical gaming operations and an organizational understanding of the specific needs of the gaming industry have made it a fine fit for WinnaVegas during a 20-year relationship. NAV works in a variety of verticals, but “we primarily are a gaming integrator, that’s our thing,” says Branda. “As far as WinnaVegas goes, I was there when it was still a bingo hall and we were discussing future plans then, the gaming end of it. The part I’m involved in, the facelift and work they’ve done with the property, it’s night and day from what it was 20 years ago.”

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