Spanning 210,000 square feet of table games, poker, slot machines and bingo, Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in Mount Pleasant, Mich., is owned by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and serves as a retreat for visitors who are looking to experience relaxation and entertainment.

The safety and security of guests and employees are paramount to the tribe and with 24/7 operations, officials needed comprehensive surveillance of the entire gaming floor.

Recently Soaring Eagle Casino sought out a complete security solution that would allow operators to track an individual easily in the event of an incident. Additionally, the casino wanted the ability to add analytics capabilities to streamline business operations, manage traffic on the casino floor and assist with marketing and promotions.

Nothing says gaming like the bright lights and large casinos of Las Vegas, so when Anthony Clark, surveillance director for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, was looking to upgrade Soaring Eagle Casino’s surveillance system, he patterned the move after those adopted by MGM Resorts International.

Using equipment provided by Oncam, a Switzerland-based provider of a cloud-based business intelligence platform with industry-leading 360-degree video capture and analytics, and working with integrator North American Video, a Brick, N.J.-based gaming-focused security and surveillance integrator, Soaring Eagle Casino identified several locations where the 360-degree coverage would render most beneficial for operators, including across the main gaming floor area and covered passageways that are heavily utilized. The casino installed 12 Evolution 05 indoor cameras, replacing multiple pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) devices with the 360-degree systems, which are designed for quick and easy indoor installations through a lightweight professional enclosure.

Casino Journal Associate Editor Joan Mantini recently visited Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort to talk to Clark about their recent installation. Below are excerpts from this conversation. To hear and view the interview in its entirety, visit our website at www.casinojournal.com/videos.

Over the years how have you seen surveillance equipment evolve?

Clark: When I first started out it was all VCRs, VHS tapes, multiplexers and quads, so you would have around 400 VCRs in the back running and then you had walls and walls of tapes. Now we are down to virtual servers, RAM drives and SAN network storages.  The footprint in general has just immensely dropped from that. The cameras have also changed… the old analog cameras are out and now we are utilizing all the way up to a 2K camera.

I have a great team, that was a great part of it, and a lot of this [the installation of surveillance equipment into trellis structures] was designed before I came in, and now it is just taking the old analog stuff out and actually adding the new digital into these structures.

What advancements do you feel have been the most significant in terms of your surveillance equipment?

Clark:  It would have to be going from the analog with the VHS to the digital system.  Just the man-hours and time that it takes to do an investigation… prior to that you could work on a single investigation for days, to where now we can cut it down into just minutes. Now everything is right there on the fly in front of the operators. So just that portion alone, with its return on investment and man-hours, is unbelievable.

How often do you update your surveillance equipment?

Clark: It varies depending on the equipment you currently have. We try to keep up-to-date with the technologies as much as we can, but just like everybody else, there are budgetary constraints. With new technology comes higher pricing and that type of thing.

Oncam was one that we utilized for our most recent upgrade. It’s a 360-degree camera which covers like a fisheye format. You can see a full area with a single camera, where before we had our old PTZs with the analog where you would use a joystick to manipulate the camera and move it around, and now you can see a whole shot with one single camera.

Since integrating the Oncam have you noticed a return on investment?

Clark: The biggest return on investment has been is man-hours and customer service.  Everybody looks at the surveillance department as a back-end type of format; we are not a customer service based type of position in a casino like table games, slots or marketing. But in all actuality, we do quite a bit of customer service…because a missing COT or a lost item in general like a purse, that is one of the things we do, we track those individuals to give these items back to the customer as quickly as possible. So as far as a return on investment over the individual product, you won’t see that for a little while. But it is just the gratification of the customer service base that is actually the greatest return on investment for us.

What other things do you hope to gain as benefits from integrating this [Oncam]?
Clark: We would like to add this to some analytics, as far as areas being utilized more than others. With using these wider cameras such as the Oncam 360, it kind of gives you a demographic as to who is in the general areas. You can then help the areas where it is a little slow on certain days by adding a promotion. You can actually utilize the analytics with your marketing department and design a marketing strategy through surveillance… you can use surveillance as a marketing tool.

What types of casino scams are you seeing now and can you tell me what this new surveillance equipment is doing to help prevent that?

Clark: You see the general scams… you have your card counters that try to come in and you have your cheats, your slides and that type of thing. One of the things is that with the higher quality camera, the moves are caught a lot quicker. You can actually count the cards just as quick, if not quicker, as they are coming out than a person sitting at an angle at the table can.  We have probably one of the highest resolution camera systems that you can get on the market, as far as table games and finance areas go, at this time. 

Do you have measurable results?

Clark: It is a new system, so we are still actually pulling our statistics together.  We are still in the process of adding more of the cameras. The return on investment in general right now has already been increased, but as far as actual and true analytics, I can’t give you any at this point, because it is new.