Moving on up

Fond-du-Luth Casino migrates to a high definition
all-IP physical security solution


The gaming industry in Minnesota generates $2.75 billion in revenue and draws 24.5 billion visitors each year. The 18 casinos in Minnesota, owned and operated by Native American tribes, play an important role; supporting 41,000 jobs statewide and providing 73 percent of the jobs in the state’s rural communities. One of these properties, the Duluth, Minn.-based Fond-du-Luth Casino, is owned and operated by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota.

In 2015, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa began a construction project that included a $6.2 million renovation of the Fond-du-Luth Casino, housed in a former Sears & Roebuck department store building in the heart of downtown Duluth. The project included a complete overhaul of the casino’s two floors, a total of 20,000 square feet, plus the casino’s video surveillance and access control systems. It was important to the casino to remain open during the renovation and maintain the 24-hour availability of its 700 slot machines, four gaming tables and six casino cages to visitors.

Working with its long-time systems integrator partner North American Video (NAV), Fond-du-Luth determined that an all IP, full-integrated solution was the best fit for the casino because the construction project provided the opportunity to install a new surveillance system without concerns for existing legacy equipment. The casino also needed a competitively priced solution that wouldn’t exceed the budget for the project.


One of the major challenges of the Fond-du-Luth project was its abbreviated timeline. The surveillance system installation needed to be scheduled in conjunction with the architectural redesign and reconstruction of the casino over a three-month period.

Fond-du-Luth Casino also required that the new surveillance command center fit within a small location and footprint, which meant that hardware had to be compact in size. Fond-du-Luth wanted a video wall in the command center as well; one that surveillance operators could use to monitor multiple cameras simultaneously.

In addition, Fond-du-Luth had to consider ease of use and the amount of training time required for operators on the new integrated solution’s user interface. The casino’s surveillance staff needed to be able to learn how to use the system quickly, so an intuitive solution that required minimum training was ideal.

Prior to selecting a new solution, the casino performed video surveillance shootouts between their top three choices. Using multiple workstations simultaneously, they compared key system metrics such as ease of operation, saving views and searching.  Fond-du-Luth Casino sought an intuitive video management system with a single user interface that would make everyday tasks easier, giving surveillance operators the capability to perform single and multiple camera reviews. The new security solution needed to streamline this and other review processes so that surveillance operators could spend more time on active surveillance.

The casino wanted to take advantage of current imaging technology and replace all of the cameras in its facilities with new IP cameras. Prior to the 2015 renovation, the casino’s facilities used analog PTZ cameras, which couldn’t be quickly and easily positioned to follow suspicious incidents, a capability needed by the casino’s surveillance division. The casino wanted not only the high quality of analog imaging, but also wanted the flexibility to allow surveillance operators to zoom in to view and capture details when monitoring casino activities.

For its access control system, Fond-du-Luth Casino’s vision was future-focused. The casino sought an integrated access control and video solution that could expand with the casino’s growth. While replacement of its 30-year-old analog access system wasn’t part of the 2015 project, the casino intends to eventually migrate its entire analog access control system to IP access control.


After extensive testing, Fond-du-Luth Casino chose a Tyco Security Products security solution consisting of American Dynamics’ victor video management system to manage its 400 new Illustra Pro IP PTZ and 5 megapixel mini-dome cameras and 25 VideoEdge network video recorders NVRs. The new solution prepares Fond-du-Luth for future expansion and integration of IP-based Kantech access control in the future, while providing the highly accurate camera positioning, high-resolution imaging and the fast, intuitive video review process needed for their operations.

Fond-du-Luth’s surveillance staff drastically decreased searching time, enabling them to increase their time spent on active surveillance. Timeline control facilitates quick playback and victor’s Clip Builder and Image Editor let the casino’s surveillance operators edit, clip and export videos; a function that was high atop Fond-du-Luth’s wish list. Operators can also search video history in a matter of seconds and search across multiple recorders simultaneously.

Fond-du-Luth’s surveillance operators use American Dynamics’ 2089 matrix keyboards with tactile full-travel keys, giving them virtual hands-on control of cameras and views. All system activities can be controlled directly from the keyboard and each keyboard is customizable for its user with up to 1,000 user-defined macros, so that operators can program simple keystrokes to perform many system tasks, improving efficiency and overall usability. The casino’s surveillance operators were accustomed to using keyboard commands on their previous analog video surveillance system, so training time on the new matrix keyboards was minimal, meeting another goal on Fond-du-Luth’s list.

“The amount of time that our staff is able to perform active surveillance is greatly increased, and we spend much less time physically reviewing the recorded video,” said Bryan Kowalik, surveillance technical manager for Fond-du-Luth Casino. “Surveillance operators only need one keyboard to pull up video and they can quickly search the footage without moving to another computer. It’s made our operators’ jobs easier.”

Replacing existing analog cameras with Illustra Pro PTZ cameras in locations such as elevators and deploying Illustra Pro 5 MP mini-dome cameras in low light areas like the bar lounge and cages gives the casino the versatility of views needed to monitor live and recorded activity. The new Illustra IP cameras cover double the space than the previous cameras, saving them a significant portion of their budget by reducing the number of cameras required to cover the same area. Illustra IP cameras also provide H.264 compression to reduce bandwidth consumption, and lower network traffic and storage costs.

The Illustra Pro 5 MP mini-domes capture better images of guests on the casino floor, enabling easier identification of the presence of high rollers and faster response to individuals not allowed on the gaming floor. Additionally, the Illustra mini-dome cameras deliver the clarity necessary for operators to clearly view serial numbers on bills or individual numbers on Keno tickets at each machine. Illustra Pro PTZ high-resolution cameras with 512 degree per second positioning provide low latency for the efficient tracking of suspicious behavior in the casino cage areas.

“Fond-du-Luth was the result of a great partnership between Tyco Security Products, North American Video and the casino,” said Rich Branda, system sales executive for NAV and lead on the project. “The casino’s surveillance team understood the complexity of putting these systems together, which helped us to finish our portion of the work on time.”

The surveillance room utilizes a four-by-two monitor video wall with eight 55-inch monitors for convenient 24/7 surveillance monitoring. Security staff can view a total of 32 monitors in a Virtual Matrix configuration on the video wall and the surveillance room includes five workstations and three operator desks. Using the new video wall, staff can examine procedural errors and monitor both employee and patron activity while simultaneously watching live surveillance feeds from the casino’s 400 cameras. Using victor’s Command Center, operators also can share and communicate information with other operators, pushing live and recorded video from one monitor to another to ensure rapid response to critical events.

Fond-du-Luth’s surveillance staff has found the victor platform and VideoEdge easy to use and understand, citing its simple programming and layout as intuitive and user friendly, according to Dennis McCauley, the lead surveillance technician for the property. From adding cameras to the system to navigating guard views, training costs on the victor VMS software for surveillance operators have been minimal and the hardware required for the new video platform has a small footprint.

Fond-du-Luth Casino also sought advanced technical training on the new victor-based solution so that its surveillance staff could take ownership of the system’s ongoing service and maintenance. The advanced training showed its value to the casino very quickly, where a potential issue was resolved without requiring a service call.

Tyco Security Products is a unified group of the comprehensive, world-leading premium access control, video, location-based tracking and intrusion solutions in the security industry. For more information, visit


Be prepared

A training expert outlines the seven steps casinos need to take to properly prepare
for a workplace emergency


Finding yourself face-to-face with a compromising situation in your workplace can be scary and distressing. Workplace emergencies affect employees, clients, customers and visitors. Emergencies may be the result of a natural disaster, workplace violence or threatening and disruptive behaviors that occur at work. While no two emergencies are the same, the risk and harmful effects of a workplace emergency may be prevented or minimized if employers take the appropriate precautions. Crisis situation preparedness is necessary for maintaining the safety of all employees. Here are seven steps that can both prevent and better prepare staffs for a workplace emergency:

Monthly or quarterly workplace safety training: Regularly scheduled meetings are critical for training employees and communicating the necessary steps to prevent and prepare for a workplace emergency. Your meetings should be different than those that cover risk-related safety topics (proper lifting, slips and falls, etc.). Instead, cover emergency-related topics such as violence and natural disasters, and include role-playing or drills for evacuating a building or practicing a lock-down. Train employees on alarm locations, silent alarms and how to react during hostage situations. You may consider inviting local law enforcement to speak on a particular topic or help with role-playing. 

Emergency action plan: An easily accessible plan will allow for a quick response to any emergency situation. The plan should, at minimum, include contact information for all employees and vendors, as well as emergency contacts for electric, water and gas companies.  Establish a call chain of command to simplify the process that quickly accounts for all employees in an emergency. Include checklists that handle all types of emergency situations-- such as fires, bomb threats, floods and medical emergencies—in your plan. 

Evacuation procedures: Evacuation procedures should be part of an emergency action plan but are worth mentioning separate from the plan. Train all employees on evacuation processes and where to meet-up once evacuated. Consider implementing active shooter evacuation procedures and bring as much awareness to this emergency epidemic as possible with your employees.  Practice the evacuation procedures regularly to ensure that employees are familiar with the process. Post your general evacuation procedures so that they are visible and easily accessible in the workplace. 

Lock-down procedures: Similar to evacuation procedures, all employees must also know the procedures for a lock-down in the event that they are instructed not to leave the building under any circumstance. They must know how to lock and secure doors and windows, as well as the safest places to take cover if necessary. Maintain your lockdown procedures in easily accessible areas around the workplace. 

Zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence: Establishing a zero-tolerance policy towards any violence, threat, or anything perceived as harmful will deter danger and focus on keeping your workplace safe. Your employees have the right to a safe workplace; The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) was passed to prevent workers from fatal or serious harm while working. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers, and this includes workplace violence. A visible policy that covers employees, guests, clients, visitors and contractors will reduce the incidence of workplace violence. 

Secure the workplace: Where appropriate, install video surveillance, extra lighting and alarm systems. Minimize access by outsiders through identification badges, locks, electronic keys and guards. A properly lit workplace will deter theft and assist employees with an easy evacuation in the case of an emergency.

Recognize potentially harmful situations: According to the FBI, active shooter and similar workplace violence situations are on the rise. Training employees to notice warning signs of potentially threatening situations and training them to effectively communicate to a designated person, no matter how minor, is key in preventing an emergency. This is a broad subject, and training your employees to recognize signs that may lead to a possible emergency is critical. Require your employees to immediately report any potentially harmful or suspicious situations to their supervisors, even if it is a gut feeling that something does not seem right about a situation, an employee or a visitor.

Mindy Letourneau is the founder and CEO of Casino Essentials, a San Diego, Calif.-based provider of educational services to the gaming industry to ensure compliance with federal, state and jurisdictional regulations such as anti-money laundering/BSA/ Title 31, human resources, and OSHA regulations. She can be reached at