Nothing is on a small scale when it comes to casino operations today. So when the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation decided to expand the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., they turned to a proven partner who could help them with their goal to build the safest resort possible—Red Hawk, part of the UTC Fire & Security family.
Slated to open this spring, the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino is a best-in-class operation and new $700 million development project that adds nearly two million square feet of space and features significantly increased hotel, entertainment, restaurants and gaming venues as well as enhanced corporate retreat, meeting and convention resources.
And while gaming security and asset management were of course integral to the renovation’s goals and overall operations, what came first and foremost, as always, was the safety of patrons. Some 40,000 to 70,000 guests visit Foxwoods each day and as many as 100,000 on weekends.
Foxwoods Resort Casino Executive Director of Security Amondo Sebastian and Director of Security Russ Adams have grown with and nurtured the world-class operation since it opened in 1992. They’ve also had a close working relationship with the local Connecticut-based Red Hawk (formerly ACP Engineering), beginning in 1994 with the installation of an access control system, followed by a systems expansion project six months later. In 1999 the security firm helped the casino install digital video recorders. Since then, Red Hawk has worked closely with Foxwoods on an ongoing series of projects, upgrades and expansions. As always, safety took precedence.
“Safety is our first priority and deeply embedded in the culture here,” said Richard E. Sebastian, Tribal Council Member and former director of security at Foxwoods.
“The Tribal Council supports whatever steps must be taken to ensure Foxwoods is the safest casino in the world and we embedded that philosophy into every phase of the new system design and expansion,” he said. He added that security is also about providing good customer service and a safe work environment for employees.
Headquartered in Denver, Red Hawk is a national company that designs, installs and services integrated electronic and physical security solutions across the U.S. As part of UTC Fire & Security, a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, Red Hawk carries a strong focus on customer service and those qualities are crucial for customers such as the Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Consulting and cooperating
According to Adams and Amondo Sebastian, Foxwoods sets the security standard in the casino industry and it often acts as a resource to other gaming and hospitality venues.
“There’s lots of idea sharing and collaboration among security professionals in the casino industry,” said Sebastian. “We work hard to maintain Foxwoods’ status as a best in class security provider and each system installation we undertake involves extensive research and close collaboration between the security department and the integrator.”
“We have to be open-minded about how we approach new technology and often have to think out of the box to get a solution,” Adams added. “It was a major team effort to bring the suppliers together and to get them to understand our vision for the system and how we wanted it to work. Each supplier had to prove their technology could meet the unique requirements specific to each area of the casino. We are constantly testing, pushing and evaluating technology,” he said.
Years of planning
The Foxwoods security team, led by Sebastian and Adams, benchmarked the best in the industry in an effort to design their latest system as part of the expansion, including some of the U.S. government’s most elite agencies and the Pentagon.
“It took a lot of time to arrive at the final design and we were very careful in our evaluations to ensure that the system remains at the forefront of what’s happening in the industry. We then turned to Red Hawk’s integration team to bring the design idea to fruition,” said Sebastian.
At the heart of the system is closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV), an extensive, multi-camera analog system installed with Category 6 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) and fiber optic cabling in parallel that’s ready to make the move to networked IP cameras when the time comes. The entire system, according to Jerry Brocki, Red Hawk National Accounts Manager, is designed around IP specifications, including footage and distances of cameras, power requirements and video transmission in an effort to prepare the system for future upgrades and new technology needs. The integrator’s part of the installation is valued at about $8 million and includes ongoing service and maintenance in addition to the deployment of 1,600 fixed and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras. There were 5,000 existing cameras on site.
For integrator Red Hawk, the challenges were never intimidating. “It was a design-build specification with a fast-track schedule,” said Brocki. “Security was key, but it had to be unobtrusive and provide public safety. The greatest challenge was designing a system we could ‘future proof’ for tomorrow with what we would install today,” he said.
For example, camera runs were powered from remote closets or Intermediate Distribution Frames (IDFs) with no more than 300 feet home run in the event IP cameras would one day be deployed because those types of network devices require shorter runs. Rather than use coaxial cable, a single Category 6 UTP cable was deployed to each unit to power the PTZs and provide video and data. (UTP can run up to 2,000 feet in normal applications with continued signal integrity.) The 300-foot ‘rule’ required that more IDF remote closets be built from scratch and figured into the design. In addition, the integrator laid out a fiber optic network between the closets in a redundant design incorporating the 300-foot maximum wiring configuration from the closet to the head end in the control room. There were some 12 IDF rooms created as part of the installation, with these locations acting as cabling “hubs.”
“The access control system is another example of anticipating future needs and capabilities and preparing for them now,” said Brocki. “With more than 300 readers, it uses fiber optics today, but in the future the fiber cabling will be used to transmit video. ”
As far as the team’s decision to use analog rather than digital cameras, it came down to overall performance and a wider range of camera options.
“With digital cameras, you may have a delay on the network, but even if it’s a millisecond, it’s critical for the casino environment,” Brocki said. “When you need an overall picture, network delays are no big deal. But when you are trying to get a picture of someone’s face, it’s a lot different. When the network is down, the IP camera is not recording and you’re unable to view a live picture. If the camera is out, you don’t have any security,” he said.
Other design decisions were driven by the Casino’s disaster recovery and system redundancy needs.
“It was very important that one system could take over for the other in an emergency,” said Adams. “We had to ensure that the two buildings could communicate as one – the new building was backwards compatible with the existing one.”
Other highlights of the specification include:
• A newly constructed control room for the camera system in the new MGM complex which is a standalone entity from the existing security command center.
• The system has its own power running to it and everything is backed up and redundant.
• All 1,600 cameras flow into a central rack and then split out to the security control room.
• Data rooms incorporate a raised floor system to actively cool equipment storage racks.
• Power, air, heat and cabling are designed for future expansion.
• A waterless FM-200 fire protection system is deployed in the data room to protect electronics.
• In the command center, the video wall concept consists of two 48-inch monitors in front of each operator station which incorporates a state-of-the-art alarm and video management system. The Lenel and Nice converged solution provides a graphical map display immediately upon alert.
• The control/video room also uses video analytics, such as license plate recognition.
• The team also built a separate IT network from the ground up to run the new security system. The proprietary network has a 10 GB backbone and ample storage.
“The system is a custom integration project – there is nothing off the shelf about anything Foxwoods bought or installed,” Brocki confirmed.
Tackling one the largest security camera and video management projects in the country is no easy endeavor, but Red Hawk, working in partnership with the security management and other project partners made it seem like a breeze. That’s what integrator expertise gets you today. And it also gets you an ongoing working relationship with a world-class casino operation the likes of the Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods.