It was a huge undertaking to complete these renovations in between major betting events without ever shutting down the existing betting area, even for a minute.
The Peppermill Resort Spa Casino is a premium AAA Four Diamond property in Reno, Nevada, with more than 1,600 guest rooms, a vast, luxurious spa and salon, 15 bars and lounges and 10 restaurants.
The Peppermill Reno is the largest of seven Peppermill Casinos, Inc. properties — with gaming sites in several Nevada locations and an iconic ’70s-era coffee shop and lounge on the North Strip in Las Vegas.
Striving for the Best
Peppermill has three longtime owners, who place a premium on experiences — from the hotel rooms and public areas to the extraordinary number of digital displays used around the properties. There are dozens of large-format LED displays located around Peppermill properties, some of them as wide as 40 feet. Screen content is focused more on customer experience than marketing, with no pure advertising and limited casino promotion material on screens.
Peppermill has instead invested some $35 million in time, technology and travel, doing original location shoots of high-definition landscapes, wildlife and fashion scenes for a guest amenity called Windows of the World. Shot by Peppermill’s internal Entertainment, Electronics and Media (EEM) department, the footage is displayed on almost 4,200 screens throughout the property — from large LED video walls and LCDs, to the TVs in each guest room.
In early 2018, the owners group decided Peppermill’s popular sportsbook room was due for an upgrade — its last technology upgrade dating back more than a decade. The existing system was a kaleidoscope of screens of varying sizes set along feature walls, showing live pro games and horse racing from around the country.
Looking for inspiration and guidance, a company team visited casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere, walking through some of that city’s most prominent and celebrated sportsbook facilities.
“We wanted it to be as nice or nicer than anything like it in the world, including Las Vegas,” says Joe Ness, Peppermill’s executive director of Entertainment, Electronics and Media. Somewhat unique in his field, Ness has built and runs a seasoned in-house pro AV integration team that does everything from drawings to installations — work normally outsourced to third parties.
The ownership group also wanted to keep the sportsbook operating throughout the renovation, and complete the screen addition in a matter of days, rather than the several weeks more typical for large-scale AV upgrades.
“We’ve created huge, huge bling for our entire casino.”
— Joe Ness, Executive Director of Entertainment, Electronics and Media, Peppermill
A Massive, Curved Canvas
“We came up with the idea of a big, seamless curved wall made with LED, that had a horseshoe curve that really made it look elegant,” says Ness of the final plan settled on by the owners and his own staff.
The design idea focused on an 110-ft. wide, 12-ft. tall curved display, creating a digital canvas that’s 13,000 pixels across. That many pixels is roughly the same as three side-by-side Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4K screens, though on a much larger visual scale than conventional 4K LCDs.
The setup also envisioned banks of flanking LCD displays that would run odds and other betting information that didn’t need to be on the premium visual canvas.
California-based Samsung reseller KniTec has been a longtime display provider to the Peppermill group, and managing partner Eric Christiansen says Ness put a challenge in front of his company to present competitive options against other LED manufacturers and their resellers.
Christiansen pitched the Samsung IF Series displays, suggesting the 2.5mm LED modules. At typical viewing distances of 20 feet or more for sportsbook patrons, 2.5mm modules delivered a necessarily crisp viewing experience, without the incrementally higher costs of finer-pitch displays available in the IF series.
Peppermill’s technical team also loved the engineering design of the IF LED display modules, which are fully front-serviceable. Being able to easily remove modules for servicing or replacement, without all the disruption required to access LED video walls from the rear, was seen as a huge time and cost saver.
The front-serviceable mounting solution was custom-designed by Premier Dedicated Solutions (PDS), a division of Premier Mounts, which has started to develop the same expertise with LED that it has built up working with LCD displays. The Peppermill Reno job was its largest LED display project done to date by PDS, and was complicated by that gentle curve. Flat walls are relatively easy, says PDS’s Curtis Rose, “but with a curve, it adds another layer of difficulty.”
An unexpected, but naturally much welcomed, outcome of the vendor-selection process was the significantly reduced final costs achieved by KniTec and Samsung.
The original AV specifications developed by the Peppermill team budgeted roughly $300,000 for computing equipment and software designed to schedule, scale and control the signal outputs to fit the massive screens.
Samsung’s own LED UHD Signage appliances — also called SNOW boxes — negated the need for that extra gear. “So we saved them about $80,000,” says Christiansen, “and they got a superior product at the same time.”
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Dozens of Simultaneous Games and More
A major factor in the decision to make the investment in the new sportsbook screen was the visual impact it would deliver, says Ness. More betting is always good — but the Peppermill is already the busiest sportsbook in Reno.
Instead, the book’s location alongside the busiest foot traffic area in the casino — with some 10,000 people walking through per day — was the main tactic.
The new book features edge-to-edge content, including the three massive game broadcast zones, two more zones of the same size that are then “quadded” into four distinct broadcast feeds, and narrow vertical content strips between the zones that use iconic sports imagery from Getty Images. These strips were otherwise dead space left by the content zones’ adherence to 16:9 aspect ratios on the vast canvas. The display is now capable of airing up to 30 different games and events simultaneously.
There are also 12 LCDs flanking the videowall, running odds and other betting information.
As requested by the owners, the renovation resulted in minimal disruption for guests. These kinds of projects normally take several weeks to execute, and the Peppermill’s AV team of 10 — plus external tradespeople like electricians and carpenters — had a 12-day schedule that was already considered ambitious.
The work had to be sandwiched between major sporting events, notably the biggest event in thoroughbred racing, the Kentucky Derby. Ness and his team started decommissioning the old sports book displays and infrastructure starting at 6 a.m. on a Sunday — the day after the Derby — and had the screens and systems all up and running just four days later.
That pace was due to several things — primarily planning, getting a lot of the cables and supporting gear in place in advance, and thorough testing. The complicated 23-degree curve section of the PDS mounting system was erected ahead of time in a warehouse, so Ness and his team understood how it worked and was structured.
The drapes were lifted, and the sportsbook is now fully back in action. The crowds streaming through the casino can’t help but see the big, visually compelling canvas that’s been lit up.
“We’ve created huge, huge bling for our entire casino,” says Ness. “People look over and see screens with major sporting events on in this stunning LED, with its amazing contrast and brightness. That’s what LED does!”