Streamlining Operations - Minnesota’s Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center has consistently relied on the performance and scalability of key management technology from Morse Watchmans.

Streamlining Operations

Key management now integral part of casino, hotel and event center

For almost 20 years, through multiple facility expansions, umpteen personnel changes, several system add-ons, integration with the access control system and three different system managers, Minnesota’s Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center has consistently relied on the performance and scalability of key management technology from Morse Watchmans.

Located in Mahnomen, Minn. the Shooting Star Casino, Hotel and Event Center is one of the top entertainment destinations in the region. Owned and operated by the White Earth Nation, Shooting Star features nearly 30,000 square feet of event and meeting space, a Las Vegas-style, 72,055-square-foot casino, a 15,000-square-foot concert venue, nearly 30,000 square feet of event space, and a 386-room hotel complete with the full-service Sereniitee Spa, a gift shop, convenient store, and multiple dining and drinking establishments.

Key Management on the Enterprise Level

Shooting Star’s expansive facility initially started out with one KeyWatcher automated key management system from Morse Watchmans for the hotel department, replacing a manual system for storing and tracking keys. Based on the success of the hotel department implementation, the casino added two more systems—one for the facilities department and one for use by multiple departments. A fourth system was later added for use in the slot department.

Along the way, one of the KeyWatcher systems was upgraded and a second was replaced to enable integration with the casino’s access control system. The advanced key management systems provide more secure key access as all authorized staff have to swipe their access control identification cards and enter their PIN in order to open the cabinet to remove or return a key.

All four of the systems are also on the casino’s network for monitoring access activity. The integrated key management system is programmed to send various alerts to Brandon Wirth, access coordinator at Shooting Star, who oversees key control and badge access for the different departments throughout the facility.

“Along with the transaction reports, I have the system set up for particular alarms which automatically send the alert to my email account,” Wirth said. “For example, if a keyset comes up overdue in housekeeping, I follow-up with that person’s supervisor to determine the reason why the key has not been returned. It might be that the individual is working overtime or maybe they just forgot to return the key. In any case, the alert provides instant notification so that we can take remedial action.”

Gaming Compliance

Wirth goes on to say that transaction reports are downloaded from the system on a daily basis, including a daily report required by gaming regulations on certain key sets.

Specifically, these sets are used for table games or slot machines or by the soft count and hard count teams. Regulations require that activity for any type of key used for access to gaming funds must be recorded with the date, time, and electronic signature. An electronic signature includes a unique employee PIN and badge, or employee biometric identification validated recorded through a computerized key security system.

“Before we had the key management system, everything was done manually,” Wirth said. “We had a key control office where all of these keys would come in and out, and we had a person manually logging activity for each and every key set. There was a line backed up at every shift change that would go 15 people back. It’s so much more efficient and easier with the automated system.”

The KeyWatcher system’s KeyPro software not only enables Wirth to generate scheduled reports, it also allows him to tailor the system’s programming to meet the facility’s specific needs. For example, to meet the requirements of the National Indian Gaming Commission, he has set up the system with either a two- or a three-man rule for accessing and returning sensitive key sets. One person each from the two or three different departments must log in to access key sets, and the system will only open the cabinet door and release keys once the required logins are complete and the credentials verified. As a user convenience, the system will prompt for the additional logins only once, regardless of how many sets were initially requested.

Wirth can also incorporate time frames into the programming, such as allowing sensitive keys to be out only within specific time frames. Generally the system is programmed for non-sensitive keys to be out for the length of a shift—typically eight hours—plus an additional 10 minutes before a key becomes overdue. He says that the combination of system software, network access and central control ensure adherence to security procedures, and compliance with the various gaming regulations while streamlining operations.

“We’ve never needed to make any alterations to the KeyPro software because it covers everything,” Wirth said. “I can check alarms in the hotels’ system or make changes to someone’s access for keys in the casino system, or add new badge information right from my desk.”

Ready for Another 20 Years

Currently there are approximately 600 keys secured in the four cabinets with the capability to add more modules to any of the cabinets as needed. A recent inventory of the stored keys, when compared to usage reports generated by the system, revealed that many of the keys were not being used or being used infrequently.

Rather than take up valuable space, obsolete keys were removed from the system creating smaller key sets, and new key sets were created by combining occasional use keys on a single key ring.

Wirth believes that Shooting Star hasn’t even scratched the surface in using all of the features available with the key control system.

“I’m quite sure that as new applications arise, we’ll find that the key management system can support our needs,” Wirth said. “It’s a very sophisticated system.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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