The Choctaw Casino Resort is a major casino and hotel complex in Durant OK, owned by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. It has more than 4500 slot machines and more than 400 hotel rooms. It attracts guests from all over the country, but many of its patrons are from Oklahoma and Texas, particularly the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.
World Class Casino
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has been operating a gaming facility in Durant since 1987 when they opened the Choctaw Casino Bingo. In 2006, the facility was expanded with the construction of a world-class casino. The success of the first casino led to construction of a second larger casino in 2010 that was named the North Casino, while the original facility became known as the South Casino. In 2013, a massive remodeling project was started on the South Casino to transform it into one of the most modern casinos in the world.
As plans for the remodeling of the South Casino were discussed, the desire to improve the digital signage system emerged. The system had to respond to a common challenge faced by casinos: how to keep their guests at the gaming tables when a major sporting event is happening. “In the past, when a much-anticipated game started, we would lose the guests from the gaming tables to the bar or the OTB (off-track-betting) area,” explained Hayden Mathews, Digital Services Manager at Choctaw Casinos. “We also wanted to improve the experience for guests from other states like New York or California who want to watch their hometown Yankees or Dodgers while playing at the gaming tables or having a drink at the Mason Jar Bar located in the middle of the gaming floor.”
Mathews added, “The objective for the new casino digital signage system was ease of switching between a digital signage information/celebration channel to a TV channel on any screen in the casino at any time by any authorized staff person.”
Designing For The Objective
To design the new casino digital signage system, Mathews consulted with Denis McCubbin at Nautilus Entertainment Design in San Diego, and Lance Hutchinson at CastNET in Edina MN. As they discussed the design, it became apparent that, as simple as the objective sounded, the solution was quickly becoming much more complex and challenging.
“We realized early in the design process that the digital signage system would be an IPTV-based solution,” said Hutchinson. “But the more we discussed how to accomplish the objective of easily switching between TV and digital signage on any screen, the greater the challenge seemed, especially when Hayden decided that he wanted his floor workers to be able to switch channels using either a POS terminal, Crestron touchpanel or simple web interface from their PC.”
IPTV Network Solution
As with most IPTV solutions, the network begins with Cisco switches. The network at the South Casino included one Series 3750 core switch and five edge switches installed strategically around the casino so no screen would be more than 330 feet from an edge switch. The connection between the core switch and the edge switches is a 10Gb fiber link.
All the sources go into the core switch as IPTV multicast streams. Four Technicolor Com1000s transmit 96 satellite TV channels. A CastNET server with CastNET content management software provides 16 channels of marketing content.
Additional sources include a SiliconDust HDHomeRun TV antenna system to bring in six local TV channels as backup in case the satellite TV has bad reception, and the CastNET players that are rackmounted in the head end room. All sources are connected to the core switch using Cat6a cabling.
At the other end of the network, each screen is connected to an Enseo HD3100 with Pro Idiom set-top box using an HDMI cable. The set-top box is connected to the Cisco edge switches using Cat5/6 cabling.
Switching The Channels
Once the network and sources are installed, the channel still has to be changeable. This task was accomplished with two recent CastNET innovations and the latest Crestron control system. CastNET IP Manager software resides on the CastNET server and manages the routing of live HDTV channel and digital signage channel streams from the
CastNET players to the set-top boxes located next to the screens. The CastNET IP Manager can be accessed through the CastNET web interface, from a Crestron control panel, or from a smartphone or tablet using CastNET’s web control interface.
The Crestron includes the MC2E control system, DGE-2 digital graphics engine with DigitalMedia Cat connectivity and three touchscreen control panels (one 12-inch V12 wall-mounted panel and two 10.1-inch TSW-1050 panels).
The CastNET customizable web interface makes the channel switching easy. The web interface is optimized for Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox and Safari web browsers to work on PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.
After the CastNET web control is accessed by authorized Choctaw staff, they will see a listing of just the screens they have been given access to and the sources they are allowed to use. When a high roller guest from New York playing poker asks his dealer to change the channel on the screen right above his table to the Yankees game, the casino staff member has several ways to access and change the channels to honor the player’s request.
Deploying The Audio And Video
Alpha Video & Audio was selected to integrate and install the audio and video systems for the South Casino remodeling project. To meet the requirements for the digital signage system, 29 55-inch PE55C Samsung displays and 10 46-inch PD46C Samsung displays were installed throughout the casino using Chief mounts.
A zoned audio system was installed using three BSS BLU-800 CobraNet audio DSPs with BLU-BIB and BLU-BOB expanders to distribute audio to six Crown CTs series two-channel amplifiers and one eight-channel DriveCore series amplifier, which power 253 Tannoy speakers.
A CobraNet VLAN was created on the Cisco switches to transfer audio between equipment rooms. Eight XM Radio receivers provide background music, and each zone can also select audio from any of the 96 DirecTV channels. Zone audio source selection and volume are controlled using the Crestron touchpanels. A Biamp Vocia MS-1 message server, one DS-10 paging station and VO-4e output device provide zoned paging to the casino.
The showstopper for the audio and video systems is the six-projector, 48-foot-wide videowall installed in Choctaw Casino RACEBOOK in the OTB area. Six Sony VPL-FH500 projectors deliver 1920×1200 resolution and 7000 lumen video onto the high-performance dnp Supernova Infinity screen. The 54-inch-high by 576-inch-wide screen was shipped from Denmark to Durant.
The objective for the videowall is to show multiple races or events simultaneously. To accomplish this, one TV One C3-540 CORIOmaster is installed as the image processor. Each projector can show either a full screen or a quad screen, which means that the videowall can show up to 24 events simultaneously. The CORIOmaster has 24 set-top boxes plugged into it. The most often used configuration is either six full screens or three full screens and three quad screens.
The videowall’s configuration is controlled using a Crestron control panel with a layout designed specifically for this application. The interface on the control panel is programmed to show a graphic representation of the videowall and a list of layout buttons labeled 6, 12, 18, 22 or 24 screens. Pushing one of the layout button changes the video-wall and the graphic representation of the videowall on the control panel. Also on the interface is a scrolling list of sources. The channels on the videowall are changed easily by touching one of the sources on the list and then touching one of the screens on the graphic representation of the videowall on the control panel.
Commenting on the audio and video integration, Hutchinson said, “I’ve visited casinos around the world and Choctaw Casino continues to amaze me by being the leading technology innovator in the gaming industry. Any other facility I’ve been in will have multiple distribution systems. Choctaw uses one standardized IP-based distribution system for digital audio, DirectTV, digital signage, distributed audio and off-air antenna feeds. They are setting the standard for all other casino properties. And, the 48-foot-wide screen is just awesome to see in person.”
In reviewing the project, Mathews said, “The expansion and remodeling of the South Casino was an ever-evolving and challenging project. As with every major project, plans, design specs and timelines
would change on the fly. Communication was the key for us. We had excellent ongoing communications throughout the process among the casino staff, construction management, and the CastNET and Alpha Video teams.
“Our patrons today expect the best of technology from Choctaw casinos. We are always looking for ways to use technology to enhance our patron experience. The new technology we installed in the remodeled South Casino and that we plan to roll out to the rest of the property, has improved our guest experience in many ways. We really see that our implementation of advanced technology gives us a competitive advantage over other casinos.”
Jerry Gale, CPSM, is a Professional Services Marketer, Alpha Video