The Open Platform
The Chickasaw Nation standardizes video technologies to secure one of the world's largest casinos
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Feb 25, 2020
The Chickasaw Nation is a federally recognized, independent Native American nation located in south-central Oklahoma. The nation's territory covers more than 7,600 square miles and is home to a population of nearly 70,000.
The nation is economically strong, culturally vibrant, and full of energetic and talented people dedicated to the preservation of family, community and heritage. Since the 1980s, tribal government has focused on building an economically diverse base to support programs and services for its people. The structure of the current government encourages and supports infrastructure for strong business ventures and a thriving tribal economy.
The Chickasaw Nation is a champion of using technology and dynamic business strategies to meet their goals. This support of infrastructure is evident in the nation's proactive deployment of technology to help assure the safety and security of its citizens and visitors.
Kenny Mayfield, director of surveillance for the Chickasaw Nation, has been with them for more than 13 years. Nicholas Burger is the senior surveillance manager for the nation, working with Mayfield on designing, deploying and supporting the nation's video security and surveillance systems.
Mayfield, Burger and their teams manage video systems for 153 sites, covering everything from hospitals and pharmacies to schools, child and daycare centers, retail sites, cultural and historical centers, as well as more than 20 casinos and gaming facilities. The Chickasaw Nation's police force works closely with the surveillance team as well. Currently, the nation has more than 14,000 cameras deployed and that number continues to grow.
A Need to Standardize
When Mayfield joined the team, the nation had a multitude of disparate surveillance systems in use. The systems of various facilities and organizations were not able to integrate with each other, and system use was difficult and fragmented. Some large facilities had multiple, dissimilar video systems within themselves.
"When I started here in 2007, I worked as an internal installer with our surveillance integration team. Then in 2012 when I became the head of surveillance," Mayfield said. "That same year (2012), we decided we needed to migrate all our systems toward a single video management platform, and used our internal IT team as an in-house integrator, which started the formal process of solidifying a single, network-based video management solution. In 2014, Nick joined our senior surveillance staff.”
The team faced a large surveillance hurdle because they were running a multitude of digital and analog systems, Burger said.
"We had four primary VMS that were scattered throughout our gaming facilities alone,” Burger said. “We needed to standardize on a single video platform and a single camera supplier for all properties and have it all work as a single system. We've been working on this now for several years."
The team spent a great deal of time testing and comparing video management systems to decide on the single VMS that would give them the performance, flexibility and scalability needed to cover their many properties and facilities.
"We had some Milestone VMS within our older system mix, and I always liked how it worked," Burger said. "But as we went deeper into the process of standardizing, and after meeting with Milestone and seeing their willingness to partner with us, the deployment of this system became an obvious choice for us."
Mayfield and Burger standardized on Milestone XProtect Corporate open platform VMS to meet their diverse needs. With an open platform, systems integration is easy via Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to share data between systems, devices and components for an efficient, unified solution. Potential device integration can include network video cameras, encoders, digital video recorders, storage equipment, access control, alarm and detection systems, video analytics, GPS technology, laser scanners and emergency call boxes.
"We run this solution for large facilities like our casinos, and use XProtect Pro Plus for non-gaming sites — and that flexibility is a big factor for us," Mayfield said. "We have a multitude of customers that we support and it is important that we use technologies that offer multi-solution options, not just top-of-the-line packages. There are always budgets and costs involved, and sometimes we simply don't need all the bells and whistles at a smaller location."
In evaluating camera suppliers, the team looked at a number of different data components, including image quality, reliability, fail rates, model and option availability, and advanced in-camera processing and apps.
"We have an excellent working relationship with Milestone and Axis, and they have both been very helpful in supporting us with such a huge project," Burger said. "And with Axis being so tightly integrated with Milestone, our selecting Axis became an easy choice."
WinStar World Casino
Located in Thackerville, OK, near the Oklahoma–Texas state line, the WinStar World Casino and Resort is owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation and is considered the largest casino in the United States and one of the largest in the world based on gaming floor space. WinStar's nearly 600,000 square feet of gaming space plays host to nine gaming plazas and over 8,500 electronic games. The casino also features 100 table games, a 55-table poker room, Racers Off-Track betting parlor, Bingo and high-stakes rooms.
Guests also find a large and diverse mix of retail and restaurants and event centers throughout the resort. Other premier facilities at WinStar include a 3-tower hotel with nearly 1,400 rooms, the 65,000-square-foot convention center, and a golf academy with two championship 18-hole courses.
"When we started our nationwide standardization project, WinStar itself had three different VMS systems in use, and it was difficult to coordinate actions or follow events around the property, and we needed to make a change," Mayfield said. "As with the rest of our properties, we felt we needed to standardize the VMS and camera solutions for the entire casino and resort."
In expanding and standardizing the WinStar video system — as with all other properties — flexibility is a crucial factor, and the open platform VMS allows the IT team to select an appropriate server and storage system for the facility.
"Our IT department is like our internal integrator, and they have vetted the servers they like to use,” Mayfield said. “We determine the camera layout and models we need, and we decide on the required retention times, and our IT team takes that information and designs a storage solution. The open platform VMS allows them to select from a wide range of providers for a perfect fit, regardless of the brand."
Mayfield explained that currently, he considers their system as being semi-centralized, with the capability to view about 90 of most of their sites remotely via the Milestone web client. The team does have several casinos that are linked together and can monitor one another, and some of the dedicated casino staff monitor multiple casino properties.
License Plate Recognition
Recently Mayfield and his team have been working to deploy Milestone License Plate Recognition. They have the system in use at a handful of sites, and it is working well. The team is still defining applications for the LPR system but can see that it will help improve efficiencies.
"Our primary use case so far has been in assisting with Amber Alerts, searching properties for license plate matches," Mayfield said. "The use of cameras and the LPR system saves a lot of valuable time, and the end result is that perhaps we can help locate a child or save someone from harm. It's a powerful tool."
The team also uses the LPR system to search for reported stolen cars and to help identify abandoned vehicles.
"The integrated LPR is nice for us because it just adds an extra tab to the VMS and it is super easy for our staff to click over, type in a full tag or a partial tag, and take a quick look at everything we have in the parking lot," Burger said. "Anything like that where we can stay in the same system, that's really what we strive for, to keep it as simple as possible for the frontline users so that they don't have to navigate multiple systems."
Burger explained that with the open platform VMS now deployed, their options for add-ons and third-party integrations are almost limitless.
"We're watching the progress of facial recognition technology within our industry. We're not sure if it will ever be a fit for us, but it is an interesting technology," Mayfield said. "We are actively looking at overlay data systems right now that can potentially tie in with databases like our electronic games database and provide real-time information to the room, as far as jackpots and things like that."
Researching and deploying some level of access control integration is a key next step as well, and the team has also been looking into people-counting analytics and direct point of sale integration software.
"We're now starting to test various third-party applications, and our goal is to find solutions that can provide more real-time information," Burger said. "It's all about keeping our operators working in a single system with easy access to the information they need to make good decisions and take action appropriately."
Burger added that they are proud of their approach to the system standardization, and happy with the supplier choices they have made.
"Our supplier partnerships continue to be fruitful for all involved," Burger said. "Both companies are very responsive to our needs, and they are always asking for our input and feedback on how to make things better. These types of relationships are critical to our success and greatly appreciated."