Located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Jockey Club has been one of the premiere thoroughbred racetracks in the US since 1904. This historic track has played host to some of the biggest names in the sport, attracting up to 60,000 visitors in a single weekend. Beyond racing, Oaklawn provides endless amenities for visitors, including gaming, shopping, accommodations, dining, sports betting, entertainment, and more. Sprawling over 200 acres, Oaklawn is considered a world-class tourist destination where guests can stay, play and get away.
In the spring of 2018, Oaklawn Jockey Club was facing a difficult decision: either replace the Club’s nine-year-old video surveillance system or upgrade the existing infrastructure. The estimated cost to upgrade the existing video surveillance system versus replacing it were very close making the decision all the more difficult. However, the decision for a new system solution soon became apparent when Oaklawn President and Owner, Louis Cella, announced that the club would be undergoing a $100 million expansion. The plan included an eight-story hotel, remodeled gaming floor, the addition of a new nightclub, spa, pool, and event center, as well as expanded parking areas to accommodate more guests. Seeing the scope of the massive expansion, Dacia Schuitema, Surveillance Director at Oaklawn Jockey Club, knew that a new surveillance system was essential.
With gaming being a highly regulated industry, Oakland would need to adhere to federal and local laws regarding the storage of video data to sustain operations. The new video surveillance system would therefore need to be installed while the old system was still running. Adding to the pressure? In Arkansas, state regulators are stationed on-site to ensure compliance. With renovations and construction taking place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the selected video integrator, equipment suppliers, and Oaklawn’s security team would need to work closely together to navigate known and unexpected roadblocks while remaining compliant.
Schuitema selected North American Video (NAV) to be Oaklawn’s surveillance system integrator based on their proven expertise with hospitality and gaming facilities, and familiarity with the vast requirements and regulations for gaming operations. Additionally, Schuitema was impressed by NAV’s ability to deploy new systems with minimal disruptions to daily operations, enabling gaming operations to continue during the installation.
Establishing a clear, detailed system design and schedule for the new system was critical to ensure a smooth deployment and overall success of the project. This included installation of two separate systems; a video surveillance system to cover all gaming operations with very limited access, and a second video security system to cover the facility’s expansive grounds that would be accessible by operations personnel and horse owners who wanted to check in on their horses.
“The solution developed by NAV included implementing multiple systems for gaming surveillance and general facility security,” said Schuitema. “ “So, we have a closed system for the controlled areas that does not have any connection to the public internet, thereby eliminating the chances of infiltration, data breach, or anything to do with gaming security. And we implemented a more open system with a web-based solution for the stable and barn areas that could be securely managed to provide remote viewing access for approved users.”
Another important decision was the selection of the primary camera manufacturer. Schuitema had a vision for the system, along with demanding specifications, to meet the scope and complexity of her team’s responsibilities. Schuitema took a particular interest in the primary camera manufacturer, Dallmeier, because of the importance of certain specs including panoramic views and enhanced zoom capabilities. In the parking lots alone, Oaklawn went from nine existing cameras to a total of 28, including those with advanced panoramic technology from Dallmeier.
When all was said and done, Oaklawn expanded their previous 750 camera system to include over 1400 cameras, 600 of which were installed in the new casino expansion, hotel, event center, and food court. And while there were unexpected delays due to COVID, Schuitema appreciates the collaborative, communicative style of NAV. “If I need to reach NAV, I can pick up the phone and reach who I need to speak to almost instantly – from the owners to the project managers and technicians – and that is huge,” said Schuitema. “It makes your project go so much better. When you find a company like NAV that you can relate to and trust, you know that they’re going to do a better job for you.”