Casino Security System Goes IP

Casino Security System Goes IP

Fort McDowell Casino achieves usable, reliable and successful security system

Casino Security System Goes IPFounded in 1983, Fort McDowell Casino in Arizona doesn’t take security lightly. Their security system has undergone a number of transitions over the years to aid in protecting 128,000 square foot of slot machines, 18 blackjack tables, 20 poker tables, a 1,800-seat bingo hall and a golf course. However, after struggling with a problematic security system for some time, this casino decided to consult with several companies to learn about newer solutions.

The Challenges

Lee Brown, lead surveillance technician at Fort McDowell Casino, pointed out that this casino first started with VCRs, and then transitioned to digital recording and DVRs around 2004. At that time, he said that this casino chose what could have been considered a reasonable product, but the implementation was done very poorly.

“We were absent any kind of service contract with the product, so there were a lot of components that should’ve been in the installation that just weren’t provided by the integrator,” Brown said. “That kind of had a cascading effect in respect to maintenance and downtime, so we would have DVRs going down daily for various reasons for years. It was just a constant hassle to stay on top of it.”

Brown pointed out that this casino felt that the installed system was substandard and just barely permissible for general regulatory purposes.

“It was the bottom of the barrel,” he said. The DVR server hardware would crash without warning and had no provisions for error logging or alerting, among other issues.

After eight years of using a dysfunctional product, Fort McDowell wanted something new.

System Requirements

According to Brown, the main requirement was IP, specifically a reliable, easy-touse IPVMS system that catered well to the end user.

“The benefit of IP is clarity,” he said. “It’s the difference between looking at someone on an analog camera where you can tell it’s a human form, and they’re wearing a red top and blue trouser versus ‘Oh, that’s Joe.’ It is an important distinction.”

Fort McDowell had a series of other requirements in mind while looking into prospective IPVMS candidate systems, as well. The IPVMS system would have to protect tribal assets by:

  • Enhancing surveillance coverage;
  • identifying threats to public safety;
  • ensuring compliance with all casino regulatory bodies;
  • providing an economical migration from analog to network cameras;
  • offering an easily understood, flexible licensing model; and
  • demonstrating a consistent and aggressive software development cycle for bug fixes with feature enhancements.

“We build most of our own servers, so we’re heavily reliant on the software, its administrating features and the developers themselves,” Brown said. “In casinos, attended operation is a huge component of security, so no matter how advanced the system may be or how advanced technology is moving forward, the real component is the human interaction with the video content.”

Partner of Choice

Fort McDowell ultimately decided to partner with Digital Watchdog, using their DW Spectrum in order to ensure they were monitoring all spaces to the best of their ability while satisfying casino compliance requirements.

“One of the primary motivations in choosing DW Spectrum was the platform architecture and offerings, and their licensing model,” said Brown. “Those two things were, I think, the most critical elements for us.”

The casino liked both the flexibility and performance of this solution, and Brown added that the original, well-thought-out design of the system was an added bonus.

“A great deal of thought and contemplation has gone into the design, so it’s not just a ‘copy-and-paste’ philosophical approach,” Brown said. “A lot of the other systems, if you change some of the artwork and some of the branding on the interface, they kind of give the sense that it’s all pretty much the same thing—there’s not much originality. So, for various reasons, I think DW Spectrum actually is more compelling for us than some of the other products that are out there.”

Patrick Kelly, regional sales manager, Eastern US, Digital Watchdog, echoed this, suggesting that the clean, easy-to-use interface of DW Spectrum is a huge benefit.

“A lot of the enterprise solutions tend to be a little bit more cluttered in the user interface and intimidating to the average end user, whereas DW Spectrum is very clean, very easy-touse and there are no restrictions on the way the user views the cameras and the layouts—they can create as many layouts as they’d like,” Kelly said. “It’s a completely free, open user interface structure, so it’s not limited by icons or predefined layouts. It’s a very easy process to take advantage of those features.”

Kelly believes Fort McDowell chose DW Spectrum for its business model, as well.

“The way we structured it, DW Spectrum includes an upgrade,” he said. “So, as we come out with other features, those upgrades are included without the need for a Software Support Agreement, which a lot of the other VMS manufacturers are implementing.”

What it boils down to, however, is the end user.

“What sets us apart is the end user,” Kelly said. “The software is really built for end users and end user adoption of the software.”

Other benefits include operator training, usability of the software, and the ease and scalability of the software. The software is also a cross-platform that works on Windows 64 and Linux.

Looking Toward the Future

Fort McDowell has begun installing the system, though Brown noted that it is, “kind of a process of attrition.” Fort McDowell’s approach has always been to phase out one system and begin phasing in another as both budget and opportunities present themselves.

“For us, it’s all about the end user experience,” Kelly said. “We built this VMS for users and the functionality of DW Spectrum allows it to be implemented in many large applications.”

This end user seems to be pleased as it has seen several benefits since phasing in the solution: reduced operator stress, incident reports being written without the word “inconclusive,” faster and more efficient live video monitoring, and forensic review.

“To this date I haven’t seen anything that’s as good a fit for us and the way we do business operationally or economically,” Brown said.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Security Today.

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