Mohegan Sun's digital evolution

March 18, 2010
Tracking the path of the Connecticut resort's move to digital video

Built in 1996 by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is one of the most spacious and exciting gaming and entertainment destinations in the United States. The facility encompasses more than 300,000 square feet of gaming space, a 34-story, 1,200-room luxury hotel tower, 30 of New England's finest dining establishments, 130,000 square feet of retail space, a 10,000-seat arena that plays host to world-class entertainers, 100,000 square feet of meeting space and much more.

Just like the mega resorts on the Las Vegas strip, keeping the enormous Mohegan Sun campus and all its guests and employees safe and secure is no simple task. The Mohegan Sun security team has spent decades developing and gradually enhancing a customized, state-of-the-art digital surveillance system that monitors security events in real-time, while efficiently archiving high-quality video data for easy access during investigations.

A Complex Mix of Facilities

Creating a comprehensive surveillance system to handle the myriad of environments throughout the Mohegan Sun campus required careful planning and execution. The campus is divided into four distinct security zones - Transportation, Public Safety, Security and Gaming - each with its own unique requirements.

Transportation security, for example, must film every car entering the valet area to create a video record of each vehicle in order to refute and validate damage claims. Public Safety covers all exterior areas of the property, as well as the public works facilities within the campus. The Security Group is in charge of all non-gaming areas inside the facility, including parking structures and employee areas, as well as the hotel, arena and convention center. Finally, Gaming handles security for the casino floor, Keno parlors and money counting areas. Each zone has its own stakeholders and security demands that must be satisfied.

Evolution, Not Revolution

For the Mohegan Sun security team, the development of a cutting-edge, digital surveillance solution involved a meticulous process that began before the casino ever opened its doors. At the time Mohegan Sun was being constructed, its initial security system comprised a hybrid of analog cameras connected to a series of more than 140 VCRs. While this provided video coverage of all the areas within the facility, the process of changing out VCR cassettes was resource-intensive, and the recording quality of the video was not what it could be. In addition, the ability to quickly locate a particular segment of video footage was tedious, at best, and often time-consuming. This made it challenging to quickly and efficiently access and leverage video data for investigative purposes.

For the following generation of the casino's video technology, Mohegan Sun swapped out its VCRs for DAT recorders, which resulted in some improvements in bandwidth; yet, the archived system still required manpower to maintain the system, as well as extensive time to locate specific video segments. Even with the new automated DAT tape library, video retrieval still took longer than desired for real-time investigative applications.

The Catalyst for Going Digital

In 2002, Mohegan Sun upgraded its recording infrastructure with a technology that would have a dramatic impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of its security systems, while setting the stage for a fully-digital recording platform - the introduction of Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) from Verint Video Intelligence Solutions.

The move to Verint DVRs has had a dramatic impact on the security policies and investigative procedures at Mohegan Sun. With the DVRs in place, it has been able to adopt a 100-percent recording policy - where everything that happens within the Mohegan Sun campus is captured and archived.

"The transition from tapes to Verint hard drives in 2002 was the most significant change in our history of surveillance system operations," says Mica Millbach, Security Technology Manager and Information Security Manager with Mohegan Sun. "The 100-percent coverage afforded by the DVRs helps to eliminate dead spots we used to have with the legacy VCRs and DAT recorders. Since then, our security team has been able to perform more investigations, leveraging the same amount of personnel, which has a dramatic impact on our efficiency."

Without the need to maintain extensive tape libraries, the DVRs enabled Mohegan Sun security personnel to focus on more strategic monitoring and investigative tasks. The DVRs also reduced the need to limit video sampling rates, resulting in higher quality recordings. Security personnel could instantly refer to any segment of high-quality video that was captured, which enabled them to respond to security breaches and other incidents in a matter of moments rather than days. It also significantly improved the ability to "connect the dots" and detain perpetrators before they ever left the premises.

"The DVRs made the video data we captured more usable and actionable in real-time," Millbach says. "We can intercept criminal acts as they happen, thereby changing the course of the outcomes."

With the DVRs in place, reliability levels soared beyond the 90-percent mark. Maintenance involved simple system optimization tasks that reduced hard drive failure and ensured redundancy. Failover measures facilitated system continuity, replacing hard drives before any video was compromised. In addition, a RAID 5 storage system was added to archive video data and further increase redundancy.

Maximizing a Mix of Analog and Digital

The next upgrade to the Mohegan Sun security system came in 2006 with the addition of Verint eight-channel digital video encoders. The encoders sit on the network's edge at the point of video capture, where video quality is at its highest. Along with the Verint encoders, the security team deployed a CAT5 cable network for high-speed digital video transport.

"We're now capturing video over two different channels - coax for analog and CAT5 for digital video from the Verint edge encoders," Millbach says. "This enables significantly higher resiliency rates in the event one system goes down."

The dual network approach provides Mohegan Sun security personnel with the best of both worlds. The coax network enables security teams in the command center to instantly call up and switch between any cameras on the network without latency. The CAT5 network and edge encoders capture premium-quality video data that enables investigators to see every detail of a security event. In addition, the CAT5 network and encoders have laid a solid foundation for next-generation analytics applications and megapixel cameras at Mohegan Sun.

Looking Ahead

According to Millbach, the next evolution of the Mohegan Sun digital surveillance system will be to deploy megapixel cameras at key points throughout the casino where one camera could replace several, such as cashier windows. Megapixel technology helps reduce camera count, while increasing performance optimization.

Another opportunity facing Mohegan Sun security is how to take the vast amounts of video data being captured by its surveillance network, and analyze and apply it for business-level improvements. With the help of Verint's analytics, casino facilities can better understand their guests' activities, and in turn, help increase revenue, reduce operational costs, and gain greater insight into guest behaviors. "We continue to leverage the system to help identify trends within our casino and make operational decisions based on that hard data - and look forward to taking those capabilities to the next level," Millbach says.

Courtney Jaret is director of marketing for Verint Video Intelligence Solutions.


About the Author

Courtney Jaret | Courtney Jaret

Courtney Jaret is director of marketing for Verint Video Intelligence Solutions.