Taking the Gamble out of Casino Wiring

Ask ES Boulos Co Senior Project Manager Tom Nason or Project Superintendent Andy Leali about the most challenging part of the company’s $7 million project to wire Maine’s first casino, and they will agree it was the art deco theming package.

While that was the big hurdle, perhaps the most impressive component of the Hollywood Slots project is the cellular floor system. The Westbrook, Maine-based electrical contractor laid it down in record time, creating a power grid to allow Hollywood Slots owner, Penn National Gaming of Wyoming, Pa., to place slot machines anywhere on the casino’s 40,000-square-foot gaming floor.

The floor system for the gaming floor delivers power and data access using 3,968 boxes and with a box every 2 feet.

“It took 12 working days to install the system,” Nason said. “We even surprised the manufacturer with that time.”

Cianbro Construction is construction manager for the hotel, parking garage and gaming facility. E.S. Boulos is the subcontractor for both the electrical and low-voltage work in the gaming facility and the security and fire systems for the entire facility.

In a second subcontract, E.S. Boulos installed a Class B addressable fire alarm system as well as all of the project’s low-voltage systems. This includes voice/data, telephone/telecommunications, security, closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs), audio/video systems, access wiring and pathways to the facility’s hotel and parking garage.

Maine’s first

The city of Bangor, Maine, entered into a partnership with Penn National Gaming to build a temporary gaming facility in an old restaurant within the city limits, which was to serve as an interim location until the Hollywood Slots facility was completed. The temporary or interim gaming building, which opened in 2005, was the state’s first and only gambling facility.

And it appears likely to stay that way. Maine Gov. John Baldacci exercised his veto power to stave off two attempts by the legislature to build more casinos. He placed a third project on a statewide referendum and watched it get soundly thrashed by voters, who seem to agree with Baldacci. In November 2008, voters defeated two casino ballot proposals, one for a location in the county that borders New Hampshire’s White Mountain vacation region and a second just south of Portland.

This makes the Hollywood Slots project a high-visibility undertaking. Some in Maine think these circumstances have added pressure on the owners to create a showcase operation, one that can withstand intense public scrutiny.

Begun the week after July 4, 2007, the gaming facility and parking garage opened June 29, 2008. Its hotel began to house overnight guests at the end of August 2008.

The gaming floor currently offers 1,000 slot machines, with the potential to add 500 more—something Leali thinks will happen soon.

“During peak hours, they’re seeing about 1,200 to 1,300 people on average,” he said, adding that they have lines of people waiting to play on them.

E.S. Boulos’ contract covered the wiring and electrical systems for the gaming facility, its kitchen, offices, service and retail areas. Other contractors are handling the hotel and parking garage, though E.S. Boulos is handling those facilities’ fire and security systems.

Power and distribution

E.S. Boulos installed a Caterpillar 2-megawatt, 12,470-volt generator, equipped with a Pritchard Brown enclosure and powered by a 16-cylinder, Cat diesel engine, which is adequate to power the entire facility. If the load is too great, it will load-shed the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) and hotel power first and keep the gaming and parking garage going at all times. The power needs of the casino include the casino’s service areas and its security room.

E.S. Boulos constructed six Square D substations to distribute power throughout the facility and installed Russ Electric main switchgear to distribute power to each substation.

“A switchgear is a glorified transfer switch that synchronizes the generators without interruption,” Leali said.

In the event of power loss, the system will restart in less than 10 seconds and hand off power generation from the normal utility source to the generator, then back to the utility when power is restored.

“That means no interruptions to the equipment under the load at the time of the transition,” Leali said.

Cellular floor system

E.S. Boulos used an HH Robertson cellular floor system to distribute power and data across the gaming facility floor. It is a prefabbed, predesigned floor system that is cut to length and punched for inserts—what HH Robertson calls its boxes—and the header system.

Purchased as a complete assembly, E.S. Boulos directed the design to fit around the needs of the Hollywood Slots gaming floor. Installed in sections, crews can either work from the middle outward or begin on one end.

Each node on the grid has three cables: one for power, one for data and a third for backup. To minimize problems with interference, pickup and coupling, the floor system has its own channel cell to separate the power and data lines.

“All cables are run full-length from the data racks and breaker panels to each slot hub,” Leali said.

Fire system

The fire alarm system for the entire gaming facility is a Class B addressable fire alarm with voice evacuation capability.

“The wiring is open on both ends and not done in conduits,” Leali said. “It uses FP/LP plenum-rated MC-type cable that is suspended over the ceilings.”

This particular installation used 100,000 feet of cabling, 267 speaker-strobes and 115 regular strobes. Voice evacuation uses a human voice to instruct visitors on what to do in an emergency, rather than simply relying on strobes and horns to indicate danger.

Boulos’ crews attached two cables to each speaker- and horn-strobe, one for the speaker, the other for the strobe. The cables on the speaker-strobes can also be used for intercoms.

It took about six months to install the system, using a crew of four workers and one foreman.


The kind and scope of lighting varied throughout the facility. The offices and kitchens featured standard 2-by-4 drop-in and trough-style lighting.

Nothing could prepare E.S. Boulos, however, for the theming package. The decor is art deco, but the blueprints didn’t convey its size, scale or complexity, Leali said.

One challenge was the various lighting intensities required throughout the structure.

“The incandescent lighting through the gaming facility is contrived to deliver dim or brighter light or look darker or even shadowed,” he said.

One particular challenge was providing highlight-lighting for a large, acrylic water mural depicting a beach. Done by a local artist, the mural was housed within a huge glass rotunda.

“We used Color Kinetics Light Blaster LEDs to build the lighting to change colors from top to bottom to highlight the pastels,” Leali said. “It was very difficult to set it at the right cooling effect.”

The Philips Color Kinetics display works for wall--washing effects and, using electronic controls, can generate a variety of colors without using gels, filters or mechanical scrollers. Operationally, it produces comparatively little radiated heat.

According to the manufacturer, Philips, the Color Kinetics system integrates data and power management inside the fixture, unlike other LED systems, eliminating the need for external low--voltage power supplies and special cabling.

The unit E.S. Boulos installed is approximately 8 inches high by 16 inches wide. It has a number of LEDs connected to a single controller from a remote location.

“Lights can be dimmed, cooled or both, as well as brightened and warmed to increase or highlight the colors of the surface [they are] lighting,” Leali said.


E.S. Boulos’s low-voltage crew used 375,000 feet of cabling for the gaming facility. AMP manufactured all the cabling. A six-man crew did all the low-voltage work from December 2007 to June 2008.

“We had a lot of cable to pull and a lot of termination,” said Herb Geroux, low-voltage superintendent for the project.

Voice/data traffic flows on a TIA/EIA Category 6e augmented line that gives the facility 150,000 feet of 10-gigabit service. There are four boxes in the floor that gather data from the slots and run the information back to four data closets, and from there to the main computer room.

Each machine has three cables to feed data on money paid in and out—one for the state, one for Penn National Gaming and a backup cable. Two are 12-strand fiber optics, and a third is a 25-pair copper backbone, used in case one of the fiber optic cables fails. The cables run from the machines to three telecommunication rooms and from those rooms to the computer room.

Workers also used copper backbone for phone lines, fire alarm lines, elevator phones and anything else that dials out, Geroux said.

Security systems

The gaming facility is equipped with more than 350 CCTV cameras, most of which are trained on the gaming floor. The E.S. Boulos team also hung approximately 100 cameras around the player-service area and the bank.

“The casino owners keep a good eye on the people counting the money,” Geroux said.

Interconnectivity is minimized, providing redundancy so that in case of a power shutdown, the casino would not also lose its site security.

“All cameras run independently from the slot-monitoring system. Each has its own power supply and data rack,” Geroux said.

The crews used a trapeze-style hanger and threaded rods to suspend cameras from the roof trusses, along with 400 feet of a closed-bottom tray system.

“We used the closed-bottom system because the ceiling was painted black to keep ugly interior views from visitors,” Leali said.

Geroux said the job required 300,000 feet of cabling for the cameras. Additionally, 30,000 feet of 18/2-gauge Belden cable was used to construct about 70 door contacts and holdup buttons, which, when pushed by tellers in case of a robbery, bring cameras up for the security center monitor and set off alarms. The buttons are manufactured by Multi-technology.


Nason said once the crews got past the lighting, the project was a commercial building with lots of “bells and whistles.”

Of course, Geroux and his crew were responsible for the bells and whistles, too. Crew members installed cabling for approximately 30 42-inch plasma monitors around the facility, sound systems for gaming machines and speakers for the stage.

“In all, we installed about 100 speakers throughout the site,” he said.

With its state-of-the art features, Hollywood Slots is a project to make the contractor, the owners and the state proud. The glittering facility attracts customers without having security systems and other infrastructure impinge on their fun.

WEINSTOCK, a freelance writer and photographer, writes about electronics, computer media, and financial topics. HARLER, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at 440.238.4556 and curt@curtharler.com.

About the Author

Dave Weinstock

Freelance Writer
Dave Weinstock is an assistant professor of journalism at Grand Valley State University.

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