A Royal Flush
Hidden gem packs in the customers while state-of-the-art surveillance system works behind the scenes
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Sep 09, 2008
Tucked deep in the forest on the property of the
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the MGM
Grand at Foxwoods is truly a diamond in the
Connecticut rough. The hotel/casino is part of a megaresort
and gaming destination that attracts getaway gamblers
from the Eastern Seaboard.
Its destination appeal includes numerous gaming
facilities, a plethora of shows and entertainment events,
and a hotel facility that is second to none. The complex’s
numerous other revenue streams include restaurants that
rival any of the city’s cousins.
Behind the scenes, an incredible surveillance system
lies networked to three control rooms, watching and
guarding millions of square feet of resort space. The
tribal nation is not new territory to Cynthia and Ron
Freschi and their team at North American Video. Their
latest security installation work is part of a $700 million
expansion project on a 2 million square foot addition.
The NAV contract totaled more than $5 million.
“This expansion project is just a part of our goals
for the remainder of 2008 and into next year,” said
Cynthia Freschi, president of NAV. “Our performance
is based on maintaining the best-in-class security systems
in the gaming industry and building that into a
“We are extremely pleased to have been selected for
this high-profile project by the Mashantucket Pequot
Tribal leaders and Foxwoods surveillance team. It further
validates our reputation for delivering advanced
integrated surveillance solutions for the most demanding
After spending a couple of days at the MGM Foxwoods
in Ledyard, Conn., I asked Cynthia Freschi, president of
NAV, a few questions about the security industry in
general. I wanted to share this interesting Q&A with
Q. Technology will always have a role in the
security industry, but what do you see coming
down the road?
A. We’ll see the day in the not-too-distant future when
there will be a non-invasive scanner at airports. This
will be an interesting development in homeland security
equipment. We’re also hearing about software
matching with RFID and technology where cameras will
have the ability and intelligence to hand-off tracking a
person. I think we’ll also see chip interface with Wi-Fi
and RFID very soon.
Q. What direction do you see NAV taking in
regard to security?
A. We’re interested in other verticals that have a similar
footprint that we’re currently serving. For instance, I
see NAV getting involved in the hospitality venue, key
infrastructures and airports. We already have a contract
with Augusta Aerospace to design and consult on a
project. We enjoy this and plan to see more involvement
in the airport industry.
Q. Will there always be room for the momand-
pop startups? Are they a role player in
A. I hope there will always be startup franchises. They
do play a key role in getting new technology moving.
When I say new technology, I mean a product that we’ll
actually see in about 18 months. From the players in
this arena, we’ll soon see solar-powered cameras and
technology, solar-powered Wi-Fi and many other technologies
that will make a difference.
Q. Does the security industry need regulation?
A. No. Giving the government control is not necessary.
As long as there are standards and guidelines, new
technology will continue. I believe regulation would put
a stop to technology advances at the pace we’re seeing
today. Guidelines would be the most beneficial.
Reputation Means Everything
The worldwide reputation is probably already established
for NAV employees. For instance, the company
was instrumental in the security integration at the Wynn
Resort in Macao, China. At the Foxwoods Resort, the
NAV installation is a test bed for intelligent video and
other new technologies emerging in the industry.
Reputation also included a combination of manufacturers’
cameras for the video surveillance installation,
including products from American Dynamics,
CCTVproducts.com, Panasonic and Sony. NAV branded
displays also are deployed throughout the installation.
In fact, protection of Foxwoods is divided into a pair
of entities. Security is responsible for the non-gaming
entities of the property and facility. It’s the Office of
Surveillance that involves NAV installers and technicians.
Their efforts are coordinated by Tim Bohr, the
director of surveillance for the Pequot Tribe’s assets at
Bohr said there are definite similarities in his current
position, which he has held for 12 years, and his previous
position in the banking industry. However, a gaming
enterprise on tribal land is self-regulated because the tribe
is a sovereign nation. He also works hand-in-hand with
tribal police, Connecticut State Police, FBI and Secret
Service, and other government law enforcement agencies.
“The tribal council has their own plan, especially when
it comes to surveillance in the casinos and throughout the
resort,” Bohr said. “I have been hired by the tribe to oversee
and watch out for their assets. They keep very close
tabs on the gaming experience here at Foxwoods.”
A Longstanding Partnership
Foxwoods and NAV had been partners for more than 15
years when the initial casino and resort was built on
The Pequot Tribal Nation, like many other casinos on
tribal land, adheres to the Native Indian Gaming
“We have found the Native Americans are much
quicker to embrace newer technology, and by doing so
they exceed already established regulations,” said Ron
Freschi, NAV technical director. “Other casinos, whether
it be on Native American land or not, are always asking
for guidance from the people at Foxwoods. The Tribal
Council is often suggesting or asking about newer technology,
and they are willing to test it and truly understand
how it works and how it will benefit their operation.”
At a time when the nation’s economy is experiencing
a downturn, and gas prices are on the uptick, the
Foxwoods Resort caters to up to 75,000 people a day.
The surveillance equipment install at the resort has to be
the best of the best.
In the belly of this beast known as Foxwoods Resort,
the surveillance system was designed with the future in
mind. That means IP is the control room backbone
where power, video and data are received and analyzed.
Storage of all this information is taken to a different, offsite
The future in the Foxwoods control room also includes
a redundant system of all activities and equipment. For
instance, eight matrix switchers are linked with the capability
of supervising nearly 12,000 cameras. The
Foxwoods Resort has about 6,500 cameras online with the
MGM using 2,200 surveillance cameras.
“The American Dynamics systems are a simple but
effective casino application,” said Mike Womack, senior
project manager for NAV. “The install went well with a
few minor problems but nothing that wasn’t expected in
a build this large.
“Now that we have installed this design, it will be an
easy retrofit for a full IP solution in the future,” Womack
said. “There is always a learning curve when a customer
receives a new system. The Foxwoods staff have been
using American Dynamics digital and matrix systems
for years, so they will have no problem maintaining their
systems for years.”
“Now that the system is in place and running,
we have seen no real problems and it continues to
function well,” said Mike Gauvin, technical manager
Show Me the Money
On tribal lands, there is no tolerance for gaming cheats.
The surveillance staff includes about 100 employees who
work 24/7, every day of the year, monitoring from three
main surveillance rooms. Their vigilance is focused on the
casino floor, the money pits and anywhere else there is a
scent of cash. That also includes any movement of monetary
assets within the casino proper.
Surveillance staff watch for such things as slight of
hand with gaming chips and cards, using the latest technology,
with some of the tables wired with surveillance
technology so they can get a closer look where the action
is. They also track known cheats throughout the world
using a network of shared intelligence on a daily basis.
The matrix, or brains of the camera installation, is the
switching system where inputs are sent to outputs and
the entire surveillance system is housed. The housing
area is shared by security and surveillance systems. NAV
installed the surveillance side, which looks like a well-organized
wire city. Six to eight NAV installers took six
months to integrate all the wires and hardware within
custom-made racks. The system supplies cool air
through the floor and pushes the heat out the top of the
systems. Once installed and online, racks are never
opened unless more equipment is added.
With this kind of precision in an installation and the
technology investment by the tribal council, Ron and
Cynthia Freschi have caught the eye of top security technology
companies that want to test their newest products.
According to Ron Freschi, NAV and the Foxwoods installation
have become a desired testing ground for technology.
Testing means that vendors seek permission to bring
technology onsite for a review. This includes IP cameras
and extended storage modules, all of which are passed
by NAV engineers. NAV also has a full lab at their Las
Vegas location. If, for any reason, a review or test gets a
red light, the operation stops and doesn’t go any further.
Right now, the hottest product in the testing blocks is
analytic software. Both NAV and Foxwoods Resort are
taking a long, hard look at the possibilities.
What Comes Next?
Because technology never stands still, NAV staff rely on
training. It’s important for the Freschis to implement
training to maintain their best-of-breed status. As Ron
Freschi puts it, “We put our reputation on the line. We
want to be thoroughly trained and ready at all times.”
Even in slower economic times, the casino industry
seems to be growing. At least it is booming for NAV.
Casinos are highly regulated, meaning NAV staff must
do their job in meeting the standards, or the place won’t
open. One of the things that keeps integrators moving is
an installation with open architecture. That means best-of-
Currently, Foxwoods Resort mainly uses analog cameras,
and installers have to ensure the cameras work.
Without the cameras working, the games don’t open. If a
DVR goes down, the pits follow suit, so there is quite a
bit of redundancy where cameras are positioned to offer
various angles of coverage. This ensures the gaming
floor activities stay up and running.
In the not-too-distant future, IP video surveillance
will be integrated as the full-blown surveillance system
throughout the facility. The integration will affect access
control, as well as other revenue streams in the resort,
such as restaurants.
“The future is in IP video surveillance and IP-enabled
cameras,” Cynthia Freschi said. “We plan to become more
involved in the Native American gaming community
because of their interest and trend to use the latest technology.
Everything is an IT-based product anymore.”
Back to the Future
Talking about the future is like examining NAV’s past.
The company grew of out a New Jersey garage in the
late 1990s. Cynthia Freschi said it all likely started with
a cold call. She said they would then meet up with the
potential customer and find out what kind of system was
wanted. But what really got the company started was
customer service and the family-friendly atmosphere.
“We cared about our customers and their needs,”
Cynthia Freschi said. “When we got our first big break,
it was with a casino. It was a rather big contract, and the
installation went perfectly. We always assured our customers
that we would be there when there was a problem
because we felt they were buying a service. It was all
about a partnership.”
History has a way of repeating itself. Ron and
Cynthia Freschi completed their tour of the MGM
Foxwoods facility just like they started it several months
ago. Their employees and customers are family. In fact,
NAV makes sure the system is worthy of the company
reputation by keeping an employee on site to ensure
proper operation of the equipment. It’s an interesting
relationship between integrator and
end user that began with a hug and a
$5 million handshake.