It was unimaginable that on the very week our global gaming industry converged on Las Vegas for G2E, the unthinkable could happen. As many had already arrived, or were arriving, a madman shattered the Las Vegas allure on October 1. While 22,000 were enjoying an outdoor concert at the chic Mandalay Bay, shots peppered the crowd from the 32nd floor. Within minutes, dozens lay dead and hundreds were wounded, some with lifetime injuries. With tens of thousands of G2E attendees in town, a large group probably stayed at the Mandalay Bay. How does one react or prepare for this type of nightmare?
Over time, we have learned this mass shooter, who killed himself rather than be caught, methodically planned every detail of the carnage. A rich, heavy gambler, he did not fit any “standard“ profile. Ironically, my Casino International article in September‘s G2E issue specifically focused on casino crimes. Ex-FBI agent Tom Raftery, one quoted source, warned that many within the gaming industry have not adequately addressed possible onsite terrorism. Tragically, the Mandalay Bay learned otherwise and has now hired a New York crisis management public relations firm. The lawsuits against them are just beginning to determine possible negligence by security personnel. It is long overdue for casinos to incorporate terrorism preparedness into employee training. This killer brought guns into his hotel suite and installed cameras that monitored his room and the hallway. He then used heavy-duty hammers to smash the windows and take aim. Not that guests’ luggage or drawers be searched, but dozens of weapons take up a lot of space.
Many question the relative ease in getting such an arsenal to his suite. Conditions will certainly change since the bar altering our very behavior keeps shifting. So far, gaming has pretty much escaped these events, which is amazing considering these 24-hour businesses have dozens of open doors and entry points that never close. Steve Wynn, always the innovator, explained his resorts’ ongoing security program on television. Wynn called Las Vegas a “target rich” environment in November 2015 and recruited top law enforcement and military consultants to formulate a security plan. After spending tens of millions of dollars, his team developed and instituted a counterterrorism program in May 2016. Every employee at all levels received retraining. Although nothing is foolproof, Wynn aims to preempt whatever criminal behavior he can.
The Wynn and Encore hotels installed hidden metal detectors. Security monitors every entrance while discreet staff profilers monitor customers. Any room with a “do not disturb“ sign for more than 12 hours is opened, primarily to ensure the guests’ safety. For me, our high-tech world is now an environment of decreasing interpersonal communication. Consider this…fabulous technology displayed at G2E included programs that minimize hotel check-in procedures and take people directly to their rooms. Their keys are often already coded before arrival. Or, pre-arrival check-in may mean just showing an ID and credit card. Check-out can remain anonymous…your zero balance is emailed to you.
Although convenient, it restricts a well-trained front desk staff from familiarizing themselves with guests. Virtual dealers eliminate a human dealer’s ability to evaluate players at the table.
The tragic irony at G2E was that Thursday’s final tribal educational track included a seminar about active shooters and workplace violence. What was the crowd size, given the late scheduling and that so many attendees had already left? I’m glad the G2E organizers included that coursework and maybe next time it will be considered a top priority scheduled earlier. Casino officials must remain vigilant in preventing and responding to catastrophic situations. I said this after the Baltimore riots months ago, just blocks away from Caesars Horseshoe Casino. If customers feel unsafe, they will not come and the buildings may as well close their doors. As horrific as this massacre was, we as an industry can learn from it and follow Steve Wynn’s determination to “lower the odds” of another tragedy.
I hope so.