It Was Lucky, Friday the 13th

October 1, 2007
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Black Bear and NAV personnel: (L to R) Mohamed Chahboune, NAV technician; Dennis Painter, surveillance manager, Black Bear; Rocky Rennquist, director of surveillance, Black Bear; Mike Womack, NAV; Joseph Stevens, NAV technician; and Dennis McCauley, lead surveillance technician. They are in Black Bear Casino’s surveillance room.


Friday, July 13 may have been an inauspicious day to many people this year, but to the Black Bear Casino Resort, located just outside Duluth, Minn., it was the perfect day to celebrate the opening of the Black Bear Casino in its new location. On the 13th hour of the 13th day, the Casino was officially declared open for business in its temporary home in the convention center. The successful transition from the old site to the new was with thanks, in no small way, to North American Video, headed by Security Magazine columnist Cynthia Freschi.

With the extremely tight timeframes going into the project, it could have just as easily been a black Friday. “After many delays, North American Video was finally allowed to start working on the surveillance room almost two months behind schedule,” said Dennis M. Painter, surveillance manager for the Black Bear Casino Resort. “They still made sure however that the surveillance room was functioning properly for the opening of phase one on July 13th.”

North American Video was awarded the contract in a bid process last November for the design and installation of a new digital security and surveillance system for the Casino. The work is to be done in two phases, the first, just completed, for a new system for the temporary location and then phase two for the subsequent relocation to, and installation in, the new facility. Both parties knew from the outset that this would be a challenging assignment.

“One of the largest challenges faced by the Casino is that it is essentially being built twice,” said Painter. “Phase one involved moving our old Casino into the convention center, which we’ve just finished doing, and then demolishing the old Casino. Building the new Casino is phase two and once that is built, it will move to its permanent home and the convention center will go to being a true convention center.”

The surveillance room is the heart of casino surveillance. Quality images must come in and displayed in an effective manner. Then there are storage and retrieval needs.

MOVING TO A DIGITAL FUTURE

The Black Bear Casino Resort is owned and operated by the Fond Du Lac band of Chippewa Indians and was originally built in 1993. In its temporary location, the Casino is operating with 16 table games and approximately 1,100 slot machines. Additionally, the facility features a new bingo hall with seating for 600, a golf course, and a four story parking structure. Upon completion of phase two, the new gaming floor will offer 3,000 slot machines in addition to the blackjack and poker table games and an added 250 hotel rooms in the new hotel, making it the largest gaming and entertainment venue in the Northland region.

The decision to convert the video surveillance system from an analog to a digital solution was an easy one for Painter and his staff, because of the improved technology, reduced costs and advantages of centralized management -- all of which are benefits of a digital system. Selecting the system integrator and hardware to deploy the decision however, was an entirely different matter because of the variety of solutions available and the equal number of vendors purporting to have the best system at the best price and with the best support.

“North American Video was the most qualified integrator for the job,” said Painter. “They were confident in their abilities and offered a lot of expertise in the design of the system as well as assistance in evaluating different products.”

For the next year, while housed within the convention center, gaming operations will be under the watchful eye of a surveillance system designed around an American Dynamics digital recording and virtual matrix switching equipment solution. According to Painter, the Intellex Ultra Digital Recording System was selected for its value, performance, reliability and integration capability. It features four CIF resolution and up to 480 images per second recording capability. In addition, because of the temporary location, limited space in the server room was an issue and the streamlined design of the Intellex Ultra DVRs saved valuable space by using just three units of rack space in comparison to other DVRs which could use four or five.

Painter added, “We were very innovative in design of our server room. It’s laid out so that all of our rack mounted equipment will essentially never have to be touched unless something fails and needs to be replaced. They also positioned the American Dynamics switch equipment throughout the racks so it would be closer to the digital recording equipment. Finally, and quite uniquely, because of the limited space they used ten foot enclosed racks for the equipment. The result is a very clean installation that makes the best use of our space.”

It’s a team effort between the end-user and the systems integrator. The team included Rocky Rennquist, director of surveillance, Black Bear and Mike Womack of NAV.

INTELLIGENT DESIGN, DEVICES

Painter is also pleased with the design and layout of the surveillance room. “Our monitor wall and consoles are very operator friendly, allowing the operators to learn what they need to know at a much faster pace,” he said. “In fact, the employees are all very excited to be in such a great looking room and working with this new equipment.”

Painter goes on to say that the GUIs are also designed for ease of use and fast learning. All operations are one-click, including pull-down menus, adjustable sliders and tabbed screens, which allow fast set up and easy operation and reconfiguration. In addition to alarm and system event triggers, surveillance staff also has control of camera views with multi-camera playback and display options.

Operators can remotely configure devices, select video segments by time, date or alarm, and use the smart search function or view up to 64 simultaneous live video segments. This device offers all the benefits of a virtual matrix plus the ability to save, annotate and organize copied video into incident folders to aid in follow up investigations. As well, files can be exported for playback on any Windows-based PC.

When the Casino moves to its permanent location in 2008, additional enhancements to the surveillance system, such as integration with the Casino’s POS (point-of-sale) and door access systems, will also be enabled. The DVRs support full RS-232 data for POS and ATM type recordings. Surveillance staff will be able to view text data from the linked devices displayed beside the time synchronized video and audio clips. For added flexibility, searches can be conducted using time/date and motion criteria or by using text or transaction criteria.

While in the convention center location, Painter said the surveillance and security system is on a separate network. “Our system is all in one area and we do not have the ability to remotely access the system,” he said. “However, we did have the system built with the potential to remotely monitor other properties on the Reservation from this location.”

The euphoria of a successful re-opening on July 13 has been short lived for Painter and his staff as they now start all over in preparing to move to the new Casino next year. And that preparation includes working again with North American Video, with whom they have had a long working relationship including prior to this particular project.

“We have a good relationship with North American Video,” said Painter. “They are very professional and take great pride in their work to ensure a great end product. During phase one, the on-site guys worked some crazy hours and did an amazing job to ensure not only that we would be opening the Casino on time, but also that the end product would be one we could be proud of. The level of work that was done here by the on-site technicians in the month prior to opening was impressive to everyone who has seen it.”

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