Guards inspect visitors, bags at casino entrance after attack
‘We have to start thinking like the Secret Service.’
At entrances to the Wynn resort in Las Vegas on Monday afternoon, guards scanned visitors with metal-detector wands and inspected their bags, creating a 10-minute wait to get inside. The new security protocol, put in place after Sunday’s mass shooting nearby, is likely to become the norm on the Strip and possibly beyond.
Casinos and entertainment venues are going to have to take a more holistic approach to security, thinking about rooftops and other potential shooting perches — considering the possibilities for an attack from all angles, said David Shepherd, a former FBI special agent in counter terrorism who later was the security director for Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Venetian resort.
“We have to start thinking like the Secret Service — start looking at tall buildings,” said Shepherd, who co-authored a book called “Active Shooter.” “How far do we have to take it?”
The additional security measures highlight the dilemma facing companies in one of the nation’s top entertainment destinations, with a record 42.9 million visitors last year. How do businesses keep guests safe while not imposing such drastic restrictions that the casinos, clubs and shopping thoroughfares no longer feel fun?
One executive at another casino operator, who asked not to be identified because security matters are sensitive, said the Wynn’s security check at the door is probably the industry’s future because there’s no other way to screen for people carrying weapons.
MGM Resorts International owns the Mandalay Bay hotel where a shooter opened fire Sunday night on an outdoor concert venue on the Strip operated by the company. MGM canceled all its Las Vegas shows Monday following the mass shooting, which killed almost 60 people and hurt more than 500. The incident surpassed last year’s massacre in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub as the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.
MGM and Wynn Resorts Ltd. declined to comment on their security operations.
MGM will likely face a demand shock, coupled with an increase in marketing, promotion and security costs that heighten the “risk of negative revisions to estimates,” Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Rachael Rothman said in a note to clients Tuesday. She cut her rating on the shares to neutral.
Gambling hubs across the globe have also faced security issues. In the Philippines, where an arson attack at Resorts World Manila in June resulted in 38 deaths, casinos routinely scan vehicles before they enter the property and require visitors to open their bags for security checks.
Regulators in Macau on Tuesday contacted the territory’s casino operators, reiterating that the properties need to continue enhancing their security. Casinos in the world’s biggest gambling hub, which are currently near capacity during the Golden Week holiday, require visitors to go through a security door before entering.
Casinos and concert facilities need to have plans on how they can remove people quickly in the event of an active shooter and where to lead them in order to be safe, according to Alan Zajic, a security consultant specializing in hospitality, gaming, nightclubs and retail.
“In Orlando, that’s how a lot of people died,” he told attendees at a panel on security on Monday morning at the Global Gaming Expo, an industry conference that started Monday in Las Vegas. “There were only two doors. One in the back was locked. Having a good flowing emergency exit plan is pretty important.”
The future of live events will likely include anti-sniper teams, metal detectors and better separation of audiences so they can be evacuated quickly and first responders can get in, said Ed Davis, Boston’s police commissioner from 2006 to 2013 and now a security consultant. Whether the Las Vegas massacre sparks broader changes in gun laws remains to be seen, he said.
“I would have thought that would have happened after Sandy Hook,” he said, referring to the Connecticut school shooting in 2012. “This doesn’t happen in other countries and that’s because of how we regulate or don’t regulate guns.”
Since the Las Vegas attack occurred at an outdoor venue, there wasn’t a natural exit to run to, and concertgoers who hit the ground were vulnerable to the attack from above, Shepherd said. It’s also not enough to screen customers for firearms when a shooter has weapons with a range of more than a mile, he said.
“In this case he’s not even at the event,” he said.