Casino Security System Goes IP
Fort McDowell Casino achieves usable, reliable and successful security system
- By Jamie Friedlander
- May 01, 2014
Founded 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.
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
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
Kelly believes Fort McDowell chose
DW Spectrum for its business model,
“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
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
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,”
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Security Today.