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American Indian gaming facilities use state-of-the-art equipment

Gaming on the reservation is big business, and security plays a key role in making sure the casinos are productive, prosperous and secure. These aren’t small gaming ventures -- they come with the blessing of the Choctaw Nation, the Comanche Nation and the Cherokee Nation.

These casinos bring in millions of dollars in revenue and require seven-figure contracts to provide security equipment of the highest caliber and systems that necessitates multi-phase communications and single-minded cooperation.

Best Technology Possible
The Choctaw Nation recently opened a new casino in southeastern Oklahoma, which led to a rather substantial security system installation at its Stringtown, McAlester and Grant casinos. With more than 1,000 cameras and 120 access readers at the three casinos, it was one of the largest video surveillance projects in Oklahoma. The integration also required the inclusion of a storage solution, networking software and new IP cameras.

“We knew this was going to be a very challenging project that would require a lot of communication and cooperation among the various product vendors and integrators,” said Paula Penz, gaming commissioner for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

An internal committee of tribal members wanted a reliable and cost-effective storage, software and video surveillance solution. The goal was to provide the latest in HD megapixel cameras and advanced storage technologies to enhance the green footprint of the systems.

“We had worked with many of the vendors and integrators previously, so we were familiar with their products and solution capabilities,” said Jason Pritchard, integrations manager with Onsite Solutions for the Choctaw Nation. “This is an important project, and we felt we had secured the very best in the industry to handle our needs.”

Into the Future
The Choctaw casinos began to upgrade their overall security plan in 2006, moving from analog cameras, direct-link monitors and manual videotape recording to the latest in high-resolution cameras, IP video networks and automated storage.

The gaming committee wanted an open-platform solution that would allow for easy system integration and low-cost future expansion. Another requirement was that cameras meet the Tribal Internal Control Standard of 20 frames per second in areas where money is handled. The committee later adopted a rate of 30 fps.

“Axis cameras provide the backbone for the IP camera network in the casinos,” said Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications Inc. “Operating at 30 fps in M-JPEG and MPEG-4 is easy to maintain and provides excellent surveillance coverage. We have a long history of working with the ChoctawNation. We plan to be part of any future planned expansion.”

Attracting More Gamers
The Comanche Nation also jumped into the gaming industry, at one point having the only large casino in southwest Oklahoma.

To provide their customers with an exciting and fun venue for gaming entertainment, offi cials had to improve security along with the growth of their Star Casino in Walters, Okla., and Spur Casino in Elgin, Okla.

“We have a great deal of practical casino application experience, and we know how to be innovative,” said Brody Carlson, president of ConnectionsIT.

Several years ago, gaming in Oklahoma suddenly became very competitive and was a huge attraction for residents and out-of-state guests. For the security industry, the future of gaming played a critical role as upgrades from analog to IP video and megapixel cameras began to surface, not to mention more casinos.

“Over the past few years, a variety of new Indian Nation casinos began popping up all around the area. It creates a more challenging and innovative environment for everyone and requires that we manage our assets a little smarter,” said Sharrod Tabbytite, CEO of the Comanche Nation Gaming Board of Directors.

Implementing Surveillance Solutions
The Cherokee Nation Entertainment group also transitioned to IP and megapixel cameras at its Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Okla., and West Siloam Springs casinos.

CNE quickly became a major casino operator, and holding off on upgrades was not an option. To make a smooth migration to IP video surveillance and storage needs, NICE Systems was summoned to the reservation.

“After testing many different software packages, we felt that NICE was the best solution for our environment,” said Brandon Hill, senior manager of corporate surveillance for CNE. “Converting to NICE allows us to narrow our software packages to a single operating unit.”

“These upgrades will afford CNE the benefi t of leveraging its existing investments while making the transition to megapixel and IP,” said Chris Wooten, president of the security division Americas for NICE Systems.

Putting it All in Place
Why all the upgrades? The Choctaw Nation simply wanted to better protect its assets, customers and employees from theft, fraud and unfounded insurance claims. Better video surveillance meant better protection.

ConnectionsIT was awarded the bid to handle the overall coordination and system installation. This wasn’t new for ConnectionsIT, which had been involved with other Native American casinos, including Comanche, Muscogee Creek Paiute and several Pomo bands.

The Choctaw Nation selected Axis PTZ and fi ve network cameras, as well as Genetec’s fully integrated IP video management and access control solutions, Omnicast and Synergis. In addition, IQinvision was chosen to provide some IP cameras at select locations within the casinos and Pivot3 was chosen to handle the storage solution.

“We were interested in securing the best technology possible to accomplish our goals and to allow for future growth and expansion,” Penz said.

The three casinos cover more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space, and the Grant Casino recently opened a new hotel resort that is expected to double casino traffic by 2010. The surveillance project included the installation of 150 IP cameras at Stringtown, 270 IP cameras at McAlster and 670 IP cameras in Grant.

“We are very excited over our recent IP camera conversion, and we can already see the results in the resolution of the camera video and in the ease of use of the entire video surveillance system,” Pritchard said. “Video surveillance and the proper storage of that video is an important part of our daily operation. It provides a permanent record of our casino activities and protects all of us from theft, fraud and unforeseen events and emergencies."

The security upgrade illustrates the current industry trend for integrated IP video and access control. Tribal leaders say leveraging both Omnicast and Synergis for IP video and access control provides a unified security interface. Megapixel cameras from IQinVision were specified to protect the gaming floor in all three casinos to best meet the specific needs of each surveillance location.

“Initially, Choctaw management thought their video surveillance would be an effective tool to combat cheating and related threats,” said Paul Bodell, IQinVision’s chief marketing officer. “They have now seen that IQeye’s forensic- level image detail has been just as effective in controlling inside employee misdeeds such as dealers pocketing chips and dealer-player collusion.

“Employee theft seriously impacts the bottom line, and soon after system deployment casino security directors were able to go back to their governing councils to show measurable return on investment from their video surveillance system.”

Make It Seamless
Casino management also felt one major challenge was to create a seamless integration between the performance of the camera network and the increased storage for all monitored and recorded information. Deploying NVRs on the Pivot3 serverless computing platform stripped out about 90 servers from the project.

This installation also meant nearly 70 kilowatts saved and more than $300,000 in lower acquisition costs, lower surveillance data center build-out costs, and reduced power and cooling.

“With serverless computing, the Choctaw casinos have access to a combined storage and server platform with signifi cant green benefi ts and high scalability for future growth,” said Lee Caswell, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Pivot3. “This open-system solution allows them to preserve existing investments while signifi cantly reducing their support and maintenance costs.”

In many ways, the challenges were unique, but each Indian Nation was presented with similar solutions to be able to migrate to IP cameras, seamless integration and storage issues.

Security suppliers and vendors worked hand-in-hand with security and surveillance directors to deliver an open-security solution that handled the needs for today, allowing growth in the future.

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