Can you give us a snapshot of IT support for your department and the enterprise you oversee? Also, What are some of the projects your team has been working on over the last year?
We have four people in our IT department including myself. With a smaller staff, we have to all know a lot about everything! We support all technology for the gaming/ hospitality operations at Prairie Knights Casino & Resort. The tribe and their other gaming enterprise are overseen by separate IT departments. Our site has 725 slots, a hotel with 200-rooms, a gas station, a marina on the Missouri River with 32 RV sites, and is located in rural North Dakota. We have had some business as usual upgrades and updates this year, mainly dealing with our network, gaming and hospitality systems. For back office, we have replaced our HR/payroll solution with the focus of that project to improve reporting and integration of HR and payroll systems. We have also been focusing on end-user security training after we had a full security assessment done that covered in-depth penetration testing, physical security tests and covert phishing attempts. We didn’t do too bad but certainly identified room for improvement. The most critical and hardest factor to control in a solid security plan is the human factor. As we put more information in the hands of end users, their awareness is critical to improve the protection of the overall organization. It’s a continuous focus for us.
The casino is owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, I have to ask, how did the protest of the Dakota Pipeline impact your department?
We were dealing with challenges never seen before and likely will never see again which is what made it even more challenging. We needed to address the problems at hand but they weren’t things we could invest a large amount of money in because those challenges aren’t part of what we will deal with in our everyday business. Like our wifi, which in light of what was going on, was highlighted as needing a refresh and upgrade. With limited cell service in our area something like a benefit concert that people were text messaging donations for, was a problem. We had to increase bandwidth for our guests tremendously with the volume of people and things like reporters streaming video. Our hotel was at what some would say was over 100% occupancy. Our department was called on to run dedicated hard lines and patch and re-patch cables for dedicated connections. We had to quickly put policies in place that didn’t exist before and think about things like limitations on toners in our business center due to guests printing thousands of pages of legal and other documents. Not your standard boarding pass printing. Physically the main protest was about eight miles away but we were the closest hotel. Our gas station was overflowing and you couldn’t walk through the hotel lobby without tripping over someone basically camped out on the floor. It was a sight to see.
You’ve been coming to TribalNet for many years and through multiple positions! What do you enjoy about being a part of the network and attending the conference?
I like that it’s tribally centric. Most people don’t understand sovereignty so it’s nice to have a network of people to call on that do. I can connect with my peers to discuss challenges and discover what other casinos are using and what’s working and not. It has helped me and saved me time in researching software and other tools. I also enjoy the camaraderie and feel confident I will get a straight answer instead of pre-screened one. I look forward to attending each year I can.