As the state’s largest tourist attraction, Iowa’s 20 casinos report more than $2.5 billion annually in revenue. According to the American Gaming Association, the industry supports 16,000 jobs and generates $726 million in tax revenues to local, state and federal governments, making it a vital part of the region’s economy. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska owns and operates three of these successful and popular casinos, the largest being WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa.
WinnaVegas Casino Resort opened in April 1992 and has expanded progressively as its business has grown. Following its 2014 expansion, the 24-hour casino’s facilities now include more than 850 slot machines in varying denominations, 10 casino table games and an eight-table poker room. The WinnaVegas Hotel is attached to the casino and features a number of amenities, including a pool, fitness area and arcade. The casino also has an event center containing several community meeting rooms. WinnaVegas Casino Resort hosts hundreds of events each year, including live music, tournaments and special events.
WinnaVegas Casino Resort employs more than 400 people who work in the organization’s main casino, sports casino, kitchen/buffet, administrative offices, annex, water treatment facility, 78-room hotel, pre-function Bingo lobby, event center and 40-room inn and garage. The facility also includes 750 parking spaces to support the 43,000 guests that visit WinnaVegas each month. The casino and its two neighboring tribally-owned casinos together generated $144 million in gross gaming revenues in 2013.
Due to its large number of employees and guests entering and exiting its facilities on a daily basis, need for an enhanced level of security, and recent gaming expansion, WinnaVegas sought a unified security solution that would simplify day-to-day operations of its many facilities and that would be easy to use, highly efficient and scalable. The casino resort required that new cameras and existing analog products work together for seamless integration, one that was capable of growing and adapting with WinnaVegas.
The casino also wanted to streamline its security operations by integrating its access control system with its video surveillance system in order to provide a holistic, unified security picture, matching doors with cameras and using the integrated solution’s analytics to understand events. In addition, WinnaVegas wanted the option to use the unified security system to connect WinnaVegas casino with its other local casino properties.
With WinnaVegas’ recent expansion came the need for expanded depth and breadth of security. Expansion areas included the sports casino, hotel and additional parking areas. In total, the casino needed a system to protect these new areas, plus kitchen, countertop gaming and lounge/stage areas. In the hotel alone, 78 rooms, hallways, vending areas, elevators, stairwells and parking lots all needed to be secured. The security department was particularly concerned about providing a high-level of coverage for the new gaming space.
“With our growth and expansion came the necessity of implementing a bigger, more integrated and high performing surveillance system,” said Donald Coleman, WinnaVegas Casino Resort’s surveillance director. “With so many different cameras throughout our facilities, we really needed a system that could give our security staff information quickly and accurately — that can give our security department and our guests peace of mind.”
Recent safety issues with guests as well as insurance concerns also drove the organization to consider a more complex security system with increased functionality and reporting mechanisms. A more extensive and holistic approach to its surveillance could provide the necessary coverage and expanded capabilities to better secure the facility as a whole.
One specific challenge was how the casino could address issues of latency that have been associated with some IP PTZ cameras. Latency makes it difficult for surveillance operators to quickly track patrons as they move across the casino floor or to accurately zoom in for a closer look at player’s hand of cards. Given the casino’s active surveillance needs, possible delays in camera control that affect real-time tracking and monitoring were of significant concern. Also of concern was the amount of bandwidth required for the addition of IP cameras and a new video management system.
WinnaVegas Casino Resort is a long-time user of Tyco Security Products’ Network Client and analog PTZ Dome and fixed cameras. With its new project, the resort wanted to move its cameras and overall security system to IP-based technology, but wanted to do so gradually, while continuing to use its already existing analog cameras and infrastructure. The casino also sought a single user interface for a system that could operate its access control and video together.
With the help of systems integrator North American Video, WinnaVegas Casino Resort chose the victor Unified Client. Using the victor client, WinnaVegas Casino Resort staff can manage live/recorded video from all of the facility’s video devices in a single interface — including the new VideoEdge hybrid network video recorders (NVR) and the casino’s existing video recorders. Designed to handle the high throughput of HD and megapixel cameras, victor can manage real-time alarms and events and leverage video streaming, audio, motion meta-data and other advanced features for a complete view of the entire facility.
The Illustra Pro IP PTZ Dome, mini-dome and compact mini-dome cameras from Tyco Security Products were selected to provide the high-resolution video, low latency and discreet size needed for its growing and multi-faceted operations. The Illustra Pro PTZ cameras enable WinnaVegas surveillance staff to actively monitor activity on gaming floors with high accuracy and control. The camera moves to position as fast as 512 degrees per second, allowing for active surveillance and efficient tracking of suspicious behavior. Using a single user interface, victor provides seamless control of both existing analog cameras and the newly installed IP cameras.
Compared to other IP cameras, the Illustra cameras are capable of low bandwidth usage, which was a requirement for the new system to provide some additional cost savings on the storage side. In all, six 30 TB servers were deployed for video storage, with one designated as a failover server to provide a system archive in the event of loss of power or system communication. The PTZ camera uses H.264 compression to deliver lower bandwidth, which reduces network traffic and provides savings on storage costs.
VideoEdge NVRs were added to provide the speed and power necessary for the WinnaVegas Casino Resort and its sizable operations. VideoEdge enables multiple video streams for live, record, alarm bump and meta-data collection. It also features Smart Search, using uses motion data collected with video while it is recorded, versus running time-consuming searches against archived video, enabling staff to quickly search for, review and export event findings as needed. As a result, security staff can spend less time operating and adjusting recording devices and spend more time watching cameras and responding to events in real time.
“Our new and existing video products from Tyco Security Products work well together, and the integration has been truly seamless,” said Joe Twaddle, lead technician surveillance for WinnaVegas Casino Resort. Twaddle is a 20-year veteran of the casino surveillance industry and long-time user of American Dynamics’ security systems who brought his many years of experience to the project. “The new surveillance system is backwards compatible, which means we can continue to leverage our existing surveillance investments when upgrading in the future.” Twaddle added that the casino is presently using the victor Unified Client to manage both its video and doors at its event center, with plans to add additional panels and doors so that all of the resort’s doors and cameras can be managed through victor’s singular user interface.
The victor/VideoEdge system solution met all of WinnaVegas' pre-project requirements, including provision of a high ROI for the casino, high quality images, an intuitive user-friendly interface and infinite adaptability for future needs, business and growth. The unified solution also allows the resort to transition its access control system to IP technology at its desired pace, while giving security staff a single interface with which to monitor doors and cameras. According to the organization’s leadership, possible expansion of use includes using the victor solution to manage all three of the Winnebago Tribe’s casinos, in addition to WinnaVegas Casino and Resort.
Should the casino industry experience another surge in business, WinnaVegas Casino and Resort will be ready and waiting—equipped with the adaptable, integrated security system needed for its continued and future success.