One of the biggest challenges the security technology industry has faced over the years has been keeping up with enterprise expansion. That is, as businesses grow and evolve, so must the technologies that protect them.
The gaming industry is one of the best examples of this trend. The past two decades saw casino revenues climb and overall operations grow. And as activity grew at those casinos, more technology was needed to protect their people and assets.
Case in point: Manitoba Lotteries Corp. (MLC), which underwent expansion during the 1990s and today is a key player within the Canadian Province of Manitoba’s gaming industry.
What makes MLC’s story unique, though, is the foresight the Crown Corporation showed in the 90s to migrate its security system to an integrated platform. MLC accomplished this through an intense market research approach.
Part of that approach included an annual competitive bid process mandated for MLC vendor selections. The process involves extensive research and field-testing with experts to determine which vendors and products work best in MLC’s gaming environment to provide the most effective technology available at the most competitive price.
Overseen by MLC Corporate Security, the integrated security system — which protects MLC’s two casinos, corporate offices and warehouse/office facilities — is not only keeping visitors and employees safe, but is also helping MLC thrive.
“The primary responsibility of MLC Corporate Security is to protect MLC assets, guests and employees, so we always seek to offer the most comprehensive security measures available,” says Dan Sanscartier, associate vice president of Corporate Security and Surveillance. “We take a leading-edge approach to casino security, and this includes ensuring that our security division employs the most effective security measures and tools available.”
In addition to the province’s Video Lottery Terminal Network, MLC owns and operates the Club Regent and McPhillips Street Station Casinos in Winnipeg. MLC’s casinos, corporate offices and warehouses boast a fully integrated security and surveillance system.
MLC’s approach to integrated security can be traced back to 1993, when Club Regent and McPhillips Street Station first opened with non-table gaming, including slot machines, high-stakes bingo and touch-screen gaming. Also during that time, MLC’s Crystal Casino, Canada’s first year-round, government-operated casino, offered table games and slots, but closed when the two other locations expanded and reopened in 1999 with new table games — as well as a new set of security needs and requirements.
Spread across 182,000 square feet, the Caribbean-themed Club Regent Casino (CRC) grew to feature more than 800 slot machines, 324 bingo/slots and 32 table games, as well as a walk-through salt-water aquarium, exotic restaurant and lounges, premiere live entertainment and multi-purpose facilities.
The railroad station-themed McPhillips Street Station reopened as a 178,000 square-foot casino and now offers a similar amount of slot and bingo/slot machines as CRC and 28 table games. The McPhillips Casino features national and international musical acts, upscale dining and elegant banquet/event facilities.
Upgrading and standardizing the casinos’ security systems onto one integrated platform enabled MLC to take a more holistic and standardized approach to security. This approach also better accommodated the expansion and better prepared MLC for growth further down the line.
The first part of the project involved upgrading the casinos’ camera matrix system. Following a vendor-intensive competitive bid process in 2000, corporate security selected an analog-based VCR management system, which automated and standardized MLC’s recording processes. The system gave MLC the ability to more easily monitor and control VCRs to record key processes without losing valuable recording data.
“Although unsophisticated by today’s standards, the system was a big advantage for us at the time,” says Karl Bergmann, senior manager of Security Systems. “It was our first step to standardizing on one system, and it put us in a good position when digital started to gain prominence.”
The 2000 upgrade also entailed extending the security system to MLC’s warehouse/shop/office (67,000 square feet) and to its corporate campus offices made up of three buildings encompassing 64,000 square feet near downtown Winnipeg. MLC also has three warehouse/office buildings totaling 25,000 square feet in Brandon and Morris, towns 120 miles and 60 miles from Winnipeg, respectively.
The initial 2000 installation led to a digital upgrade in 2004, which ushered in a new era — and technological advancement — for MLC security. “We needed a very configurable system that we could tailor to fit with our size at the time and, ideally, in the future,” Bergmann says. “We have locations spread across a wide geographic distance with varying security and surveillance requirements. Scalability, flexibility and ease of integration were primary factors in our system choice.”
Central to this implementation was Honeywell’s Enterprise Network Video Recorder (NVR) video management system, configurable digital video technology with the scalability and flexibility MLC sought. The digital system provided myriad benefits to MLC security and surveillance, including enhanced recording quality. MLC could more easily manage cameras and alarms across its locations, as well as obtain instant access to video recordings and simultaneously view, record and playback video and synchronized audio streams.
Digital surveillance technology has also freed up a significant amount of time previously spent reviewing tapes, affording operators more time to monitor areas and activity. MLC surveillance technicians are also able to work more efficiently, which provides an even more secure environment for MLC patrons and employees.
“From an operations standpoint, our surveillance technicians can now perform much quicker reviews when a customer needs or loses something, for example,” Sanscartier says. “Reviewing videotapes takes three times as long, so digital has certainly made us more efficient so we can immediately locate footage and pinpoint incidents. And that, in turn, is a win-win for everyone.”
Also helping to improve efficiency at MLC is Honeywell’s VideoBloX matrix system, which MLC installed at Club Regent and McPhillips Street Station as part of the 2004 upgrade. The system is a video and audio matrix switcher that integrates with other technology components, including access control and intrusion alarms, so operators are constantly updated and aware of all casino activity under surveillance. MLC has PTZ fixed cameras throughout its casinos, restaurants, warehouses and corporate offices, which all tie back to the central system to provide an enterprise-wide view of operations.
“The cameras and flexible integration give us extra ‘eyes’ in areas where we don’t always have staff on site 24 hours a day,” Bergmann says. “The digital system enables us to monitor buildings from off site, 24/7.”
MLC’s holistic approach to security also includes components beyond standard video and access to help improve safety and security, according to Bergmann. The Enterprise NVR system integrates with Honeywell’s IDM (Integrated Data Manager), a system that synchronizes surveillance video with slot and point-of-sale terminals to provide analysis of valuable data. In both casinos, for example, cameras monitor the restaurants and are tied to a POS interface, which pulls transactional data from slots and POS points throughout the locations.
MLC can generate real-time reports from the IDM system, including exception reports, which can quickly identify suspicious activity. The system has helped MLC curb theft. “We’ve been very successful controlling theft with the equipment we have,” Sanscartier says. “The IDM interface is yet another beneficial tool that we use to ensure our assets are protected, and it also aids with productivity since we can pinpoint issues immediately and work to resolve them, instead of having to dig through historical data ourselves.”
While safety and security are top priorities for MLC, non-security-related operations are also influential on business outcomes, including marketing. To help track efforts in this hard-to-measure area, MLC deployed Honeywell’s People Counter intelligent video analytics technology at entrances and exits at both casinos. The technology uses analytics-enabled cameras that use complex algorithms to count patrons entering and exiting, routing data back to the organization’s central PC server for analysis.
MLC also relies on the system’s reporting abilities. People Counter feeds data into the IDM system, and personnel can then pull valuable information such as trending data to determine the success of specific promotions, for example.
“The statistics we pull from the system help us accurately gauge the success of our marketing activities and ensure we’re maximizing all of our resources,” Sanscartier says. “For example, we can use the system to determine information as specific as which day of the week would be best for a boxing or musical event that would cater to a specific demographic.”
Once information is in the system, MLC can filter it and tie it to corresponding video and data. “The specificity of the system, enabled by the tight integration, further empowers our surveillance team and auditors to carry out their duties with extreme due diligence,” Sanscartier adds.
That same due diligence also carries over to audit-related activities. MLC follows strict audit specifications set by gaming standards and by gaming commission regulators, which includes regular reviews both internally and from external reviewers. MLC undergoes a security system-wide audit on an annual basis. Based on the recommendations that result from the audit, MLC makes necessary adjustments to meet the requirements.
Upgrading to a digital-based system has helped it more easily meet compliance standards — and make necessary adjustments more quickly and easily, as well. If one of the casinos changes its floor plan even slightly — moving a slot machine from one area to another, for example — the changes can affect the necessary configuration of the casino’s cameras. With a flexible system, making those camera moves is simple, according to Bergmann.
“Just moving a couple of slot machines can affect where several cameras need to be, based on regulations specific to standards associated with slot machines,” he says. “With a flexible and robust system, though, making the necessary adjustments is quick and easy, which also translates into a smoother and faster audit process.”
Securing a Successful Future
With the current success of its security approach, MLC continues to look ahead to how and what it can add, update or do differently when it comes to its integrated security system. Currently in the works are measures to centralize all security operations and locations on a single front-end to further enhance operational efficiencies — a move made possible in part by its digital foundation. The centralization project reflects MLC’s approach to ensuring it’s always doing what it can to remain competitive with the utmost integrity.
“We’re able to maintain a dynamic security system because we’re always seeking the newest and most cutting-edge technology and asking what we can do differently and better,” Sanscartier says. “This requires maintaining our base so we always ensure new technological additions are compatible with our core system, while also looking for a new edge that will help us to continue advancing forward.”
For MLC, both its current state and future plans all point toward time and cost efficiencies that enable better security.
“Any time our staff gains efficiencies, whether it’s through reporting, monitoring or locating a specific event, the payoff is exponential,” Sanscartier says. “As a result, they’re able to do their jobs better and conduct all the activities we’re concerned with — guests, employees and asset protection.”