A Crestron Renovation: Revolutionizing the Hotel Experience

Crestron technology is integral to the success of the Talking Stick Resort’s new poker room — and more

Fifteen years is akin to a geologic epoch when it comes to tech. That’s how long Fletcher Hickey has been with both the Talking Stick Resort and Casino Arizona — his work with the hotel and casino’s audiovisual department stretches back to the days when bulky coaxial cable was the standard for getting video content from point A to point B. Hickey — now serving as AV manager for the resort — was the third employee hired in that department. “We have around a dozen AV staffers now,” says Hickey, further noting that the resort has an internship program that focuses on tribal members learning the craft. (Talking Stick is independently owned and operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.)

Those interns are starting their careers firmly in the age of AV-over-IP. It’s a technology that now powers vital functions in the resort — most notably, the casino’s new poker room, sportsbook, and showroom. Like all the transitions Talking Stick has undertaken over the last 15 years, Hickey has been heavily involved in the most recent upgrades to the property. “There were weird periods where the technology was ‘sort of’ digital, but now we’re IP-based,” says Hickey.

Those transitions that Hickey has been a part of haven’t been easy — after all, the casino is a 24/7 operation, so the logistics of updating technology while guests are using a space is always a challenge. “We never close, so those transitions generally happen at night,” says Hickey.

The casino’s business model demands regular updates. “It’s a very competitive market here — even if you don’t consider Vegas, which we directly compete with too,” says Hickey. Las Vegas is a mere 350 miles from the greater Phoenix area, so in addition to the challenge of keeping local gaming business in town, Talking Stick competes with other tribal casinos. “They’re always changing, always adding, always renovating, which is great for me because every five years, I get to play with new toys,” says Hickey.

But how does an AV pro know which “toys” aren’t fads? It is, after all, a tough time to be a specifier, as technology seems to be moving forward at breakneck speed.

Learn more about Crestron Hospitality Technology Solutions here.

Planning the Cycle

“One of the biggest things we do as a company is maintaining a five-year roadmap in the IT department,” says Hickey. Roughly three years ago, Hickey and the team knew that their old system would be outdated at the time of the casino’s poker room and showroom updates. “We were able to reach out to Crestron and talk about ensuring that the infrastructure would be ‘future-ready,’” he adds. The flexibility of the Crestron DM NVX® technology was a big draw for Hickey. “The DM-NVX-360 is a terrific solution. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve run out of encoders — to be able to take something from a display that’s not in use, flip a switch, and have the right part for, say, a second tournament clock is a huge benefit.”

The other benefit that Crestron provided to Hickey was relationship-based. “There were several integrators working on the upgrades that Talking Stick needed,” says Michelle Guss, Crestron’s VP of hospitality. Mix in a general contractor who was unfamiliar with Crestron, and that’s where Guss and her colleagues really proved their worth. “We created the hospitality vertical specifically to be that liaison that customers like Fletcher need,” she explains. “A manufacturer who can show every tradesperson the profound advantages of a single ecosystem — and guide them through the installation process — is incredibly valuable in projects of this magnitude.”

“Taking feedback that we get from Fletcher back to our product management teams and our hospitality product strategy team is really how we take this information and make sure that we can take these things into consideration for our future products so that they can meet the needs of our customers,” adds Guss.

The Finished Product

The newly updated poker room is a showstopper. “It’s actually the largest poker room in the United States outside of California,” says Hickey. “We have 69 tables — larger than anything that’s permanently set up in Vegas.” The room also features floor-to-ceiling LED screens, two stories high, and the length of a football field. “We have a scoreboard you’d see in any pro stadium,” he adds. There are video columns as well, says Hickey, pulling in events via DirecTV® video distribution: “We show a lot of sports in the poker room, on a lot of different screens and surfaces.” And all of the content is being delivered via Crestron DM NVX AV-over-IP.

The poker room boasts roughly 110 endpoints, and each screen can be split into “quads” — four separate content streams arranged in a grid. “We use the Listen Everywhere product, so our customers can log in and listen to sports through their smartphones, so we don’t want any latency on our screens, since our guests will notice that lag.”

As for the table games themselves, “Bravo is our poker system,” Hickey explains. The Bravo system displays a variety of info — from waitlist times to winnings — and also has interactive features. “If somebody hits a button at the table, they want to get some chips or they want some drinks, our dealers can put that into the system,” Hickey explains. All of that info can be sent to the kitchen, the bar, anywhere.

“So we’re using Crestron for all of those sources, not just DirecTV.”

That’s also true for the casino’s poker tournament clocks, menu boards, and more. “And rather than having a media player behind a TV that I can’t get to — and I have to disrupt the floor if I need to get to it — it’s sitting in the back in our head-end equipment rack,” Hickey adds. “I can reset those without any worry because the Crestron products are much more reliable than your average media players and those kinds of things.”

Want to learn more about the Talking Stick Resort and Casino? Start here.

The Rest of the Resort

There are Crestron solutions elsewhere in the resort — including the guestrooms in the luxury hotel. “We broadcast Keno games into the hotel rooms,” says Hickey. “You can fill out your Keno card downstairs or in your room, and watch results from anywhere as well. It’s encoded through the Crestron system, decoded through the Crestron system, and then re-encoded through the GuestTek system, which is a completely separate system in the hotel.”

The sportsbook lounge is another critical space that relies on Crestron technology. “It’s very easy for anyone to find a specific game or event with the Crestron controls,” says Hickey. The near-zero latency of the DM NVX AV-over-IP system is critical to the sportsbook’s success. “This is a live betting environment, and our gaming customers need to see results in real-time.”

The resort’s VIP cabanas around the newly updated main pool also include displays driven by Crestron touch panels. “There’s no remote to fuss with or break,” says Hickey. “Those control panels are super intuitive and give the guests all the functionality they need.”

As a result of all the success he’s had with Crestron, Hickey is moving the entire property to a single platform. “We have over 500 encode and decode points across the entire property,” he says. “And it’s all driven by DM NVX technology.”

“We have a wide range of Crestron products everywhere, and we’re really pushing them to their limits to give us what we need,” says Hickey. “And the live feedback loop that we’ve created — between our guests, management, Michelle and the Crestron team, and my AV people — that’s been incredibly helpful.”