Mar 1, 2005 12:00 PM

The Seneca Nation of Indians recently introduced new access control and surveillance systems in the Seneca Allegany Casino in Salamanca, N.Y., and upgraded the systems in the Seneca Niagara Falls Casino in Niagara Falls.

One of six nations that comprise the Iroquois Confederacy, the Seneca Nation historically controlled trade through the western territories of the Confederacy, thus becoming known as the "Keeper of the Western Door."

Today, finding itself in a world full of professional casino cheats and legislation requiring complicated surveillance of casinos, Seneca Nation's role as "keeper of the door" may not be symbolic, but electronic.
Getting wired

Dallmann Systems, Jeffersonville, Ind., designed and installed the systems at the two casinos, integrating vendors experienced in the casino world and technology geared to save time and money. "Both properties have implemented the latest digital recording and access control technologies to protect their assets in all areas, as well as life safety technologies to protect their patrons," says Dallmann Systems project manager Tim Lyvers. "The new technology allows them to be more pro-active and catch incidents as they are happening, instead of reviewing tapes minutes, hours or even days later."

For digital recording, the Seneca Nation and Dallmann Systems selected an enterprise-level digital recording system from AlphaPoint LLC, Santa Barbara, Calif. To convert the signals from more than 1,500 Pelco analog cameras at the two casinos, the integrators chose an unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wire solution from Network Video Technologies (NVT), Menlo Park, Calif.

"Much of our cable runs were going to be in underground conduits, and the ease and labor savings of pulling a single, smaller CAT5e cable made more sense than the traditional method," Lyvers says. "Additionally, many of our cable runs ranged from 50 feet to 1,500 feet with most at more than 1,000 feet. These lengths may have produced unacceptable video quality had we gone with coaxial cable."

The field cable returns from the cameras to a 32-point UTP receiver where signal is converted back to coaxial. A master distribution amplifier divides the signal, sending it to a Pelco 9760 matrix switcher and to the digital video recorder via an encoder.

"The UTP product saved us a significant amount of installation time," Lyvers says. "We saved approximately 30 percent in labor cost by using the NVT product (as compared to) similar jobs where we used traditional coaxial cable. We also saved an additional 25 percent in cable cost by utilizing 100 pair feeder cables to bring video back from multiple Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) closets."

Similar UTP solutions are being employed at several Indian casinos including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde's Spirit Mountain Casino in Oregon, and the Prairie Island Indian Community's Treasure Island in Minnesota, as well as at Las Vegas casinos Mandalay Bay and Aladdin.
More challenges

Cable alone would not solve the logistical demands of the Seneca Allegeny Casino, however. The slot machine and bingo parlor, which formed a major portion of the original casino, still houses the bingo gaming. But a grand gaming expansion has been built a half-mile away, across an interstate; thus destroying any hopes of trenching cables or wiring.

The divided facility required an effective wireless solution to bridge the chasm. And the system would have to be flexible enough to handle future expansions planned for 2006. Both casinos will soon be joined by expansive hotel and events complexes.

"We needed to have a camera matrix system that could expand to the number of cameras (they will eventually need). We will actually create multiple nodes," Lyvers says. "And, we had to have everything operate from two locations, but look like it was operating from one. Fortunately, we had line-of-sight where we could shoot all the information from that standalone digital recording system to the digital recording system in the main casino (using microwave point-to-point technology.) This gave the casino the ability to view alarms and real-time video from the bingo hall without costly trenching."

Each installation offered other challenges, as well. At the Seneca Niagara Casino, the new installation replaced an existing surveillance system, requiring the delicate transition of more than 1,000 cameras. "It was very tricky to do that and keep the casino open at the same time," says Lyvers. "We built a brand-new surveillance equipment room and switched the elements over one-by-one."

Observers in the Allegany and Niagara control rooms watch the action on a combination of plasma and flat panel LCD digital monitors. The casinos typically staff 25-30 surveillance observers and five technicians at each site. All are trained: the Dallmann Systems team spent three days teaching each shift of observers how to use the new systems. The supervisor for the technical staff traveled to Germany for more extensive training on the digital recorder.

While the typical surveillance observer is limited to monitoring as few cameras as his eyes permit, the AlphaPoint DVR scans the feeds from hundreds of casino cameras. The DVR monitors for preprogrammed events or situations that may be a sign of suspicious activity, such as an object entering a cage window instead of exiting, movement in the chip tray of a closed table game, or someone moving at a high rate of speed (running).
Improved access control

Dallmann Systems also outfitted the casinos with a new access control system, an expandable solution by DSX Access Systems Inc., Dallas. Tired of the traditional multiple-door man-trap systems protecting sensitive casino areas, surveillance manager Jason Arnette and surveillance director Brian Maloney asked for a reliable CPU-based system that could handle multiple access protocols, such as proximity and fingerprint reading.

"Everyone's up to something new every day," Arnette says, describing the quickly-changing nature of those intending to cheat casinos. The Seneca casinos also received an upgraded alarm system. And the new DSX system offered the advantage of being able to integrate with the new surveillance system.

At protected doors, the potential entrant presents his photo ID and the AlphaPoint system searches for potential matches between real-time video footage of the visitor and the employee's photo on file. The operator then makes the final decision as to whether to allow the visitor to enter.

Throughout the parking areas at both properties, security phones have been installed for added protection/assistance. PTZ cameras monitor these areas.

Now plans are in the works for security systems for the Seneca Nation's new casino expansions.

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