Taking No Risks

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM


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Located in the mountains just east of Grand Ronde, Ore., Spirit Mountain Casino is a premier gaming, entertainment, meeting, dining and shopping destination of the Northwest that draws nearly three million visitors per year. The casino offers the largest selection of games and is the most successful Native American Indian casino in the Pacific Northwest. Since its opening in 1995 and with its elegantly landscaped casino entrance and original bronze statues by Northwest artist Rip Caswell, Spirit Mountain Casino has become one of Oregon's top gaming destinations.

The facility, which employs some 1,600 people, was created by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde as a vital part of an ambitious economic development program. Gaming profits are used to build houses, schools, roads, sewer and water systems; to fund health care and education; and to develop a strong, diversified economic base for the future. The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon are the proud peoples of the Umpqua, the Rogue River, the Molalla, the Kalapuya, the Chasta and many other tribes whose roots go back thousands of years and whose ancestors represent the blending of many different cultures.

Spirit Mountain Casino comprises 67,097 square feet, which consist of 254 lodge rooms, a 1,600-seat entertainment hall, five restaurants, 2,000 slot machines and 42 table games. A current expansion of the facility includes a new surveillance room to accommodate a state-of-the-art, digital video surveillance system from Synectic Systems Inc., Carpinteria, Calif.

With 20-plus years of experience engineering, manufacturing and maintaining digital video in a range of applications, Synectics specializes in deploying custom digital video surveillance solutions that integrate with existing legacy systems and future technologies.

Due to its success and popularity, Spirit Mountain engaged in the so-called “South Expansion Project” early in 2007 in order to add more than 130,000 square feet of space to the facility. The casino had also recently decided to convert its analog system to digital recording, but the current surveillance room lacked the necessary infrastructure (power, air conditioning, etc.) to support the new equipment. Because the entire surveillance room needed to be relocated, a major area within the South Expansion Project was allocated for this purpose. One of the challenges of the installation was in moving the surveillance department from one building to the other without any downtime. All of the existing cameras were converted to fiber optics for transmission to the new surveillance room.

Like other casinos across the country, Spirit Mountain Casino initially used VCR recorders and VHS tapes to monitor and record gaming activities. The decision to convert to a digital system was based on the greater return on investment offered by digital technology and, to a lesser extent, an increasing lack of availability of analog recorders and tapes made for gaming surveillance.

Spirit Mountain Casino evaluated a number of digital video systems before selecting Synectics. “We selected Synectics mainly because of its feature set, fail over reliability and outstanding support,” says Steve Bobb, surveillance director for Spirit Mountain Casino. “The system's high-quality video, ease of use and quick access to recorded images more than meet the high demands of the casino marketplace and our needs in particular.”

The Synectics system installed at Spirit Mountain records and controls more than a thousand cameras and provides operators with instantaneous access to motion picture-quality video and round-the-clock reliability — essential tools of the trade. The surveillance system also integrates with the casino's access control, point-of-sale cash registers and player tracking systems to deliver comprehensive, scalable and centralized security management.

“Operator satisfaction has greatly improved from that of the old analog system,” Bobb says. “Prior to converting to digital, our facility recorded approximately 60 percent of its cameras. The new digital system allows us to record every camera on the property 1:1. This has decreased the number of inconclusive reviews to almost zero, and the rest only because we have not yet adjusted every camera to maximize its field-of-view for recording. With that said, 99 percent of the reviews done today are not a matter of ‘do we have coverage?’ but ‘what angle works best for minimizing risk throughout the facility?’ ”

Many products were evaluated and tested in-house. Bobb also traveled to multiple casinos to observe and evaluate recording systems in working environments. A preview of the Synectics system at a live location, a test phase and a trial period were all part of the decision-making process.

Aside from Bobb, the group who chose the Synectics solution also included Tracy Howerton, surveillance technical manager for Spirit Mountain Casino, the surveillance committee from the board of directors and the Grand Ronde Gaming Commission. Prior to the purchase and installation of any product, the Spirit Mountain Gaming Board of Directors, as well as the executive director of the Grand Ronde Gaming Commission, had to approve the system.

Installation began in October 2007 and took about seven months to complete. Technical Security Integration Inc. (TSI), the integrator for the project at Spirit Mountain, specializes in the installation and design of surveillance and safety systems for applications involving CCTV, access control, burglar, fire and sound.

Craig Swankosky, CEO of TSI, recalls the selection process: “Steve Bobb and Tracy Howerton evaluated practically every DVR in production over a three-year period. After exhaustive research, they narrowed their decision to two manufacturers with Synectics being one of the two. It was then decided that TSI and Synectics provided the most comprehensive solution to meet their needs.”

“Synectics has an intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) that makes the system easy to use for the surveillance agents. Its architecture provides for simplified maintenance and support for the technical staff,” he says. “Synectics also does one of the best jobs of incorporating third party systems directly into Synergy, their management software.”

Although they can't calculate ROI benefits just yet, they can determine how much time they have saved not changing tapes. “We changed approximately 1,095 tapes on average in a day's time using the analog system. With the average time to degauss and change 280 tapes being about one hour, at an average wage of $16 an hour, that $17,520 is better spent paying employees to be at the console monitoring casino activities.”

“The fact that the Synectics system is scalable and, therefore, able to deal with the demands of an establishment of this size, as well as its ability to easily integrate with other systems, i.e. point of sale, slot systems, analytics, fire systems, access control, etc., were all key to its selection,” Bobb says. “We currently integrate with our POS system and Aristocrat Oasis slot system and eventually plan to tie into our pit administration system as well. We are a company on the move for new and innovative technology. This product has given us an edge in the industry and increased the productivity of our surveillance room, making Spirit Mountain Casino a safe and successful gaming facility for all concerned.”

John Katnic, vice president and chief operating officer of Synectics in the United States says, “We are proud to be a key partner with the Spirit Mountain Casino during their exciting expansion phase and to be commissioning the world-class surveillance solution that this premier resort deserves.”

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