Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2019

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How the resorts, Metro get on the same page to address threats

Casinos Dim Marquee Signs

Steve Marcus/AP Photo

A view of the Las Vegas Strip before casinos dimmed their marquees signs for 11 minutes, to honor the victims and heros of the Oct. 1 mass shooting, shooting, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Las Vegas.

As procedures are evaluated in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, each hotel company is responsible for its own security, but those policies aren’t developed in a vacuum.

The resort industry and law enforcement in Las Vegas have a history of working together to address threats and share information about issues as dramatic as mass shootings and terrorism as well as more mundane issues including counterfeiting, cheating, robbery and theft.

“There is not a day goes by that anything which is remotely deemed as a security threat or concern is not robustly addressed by multiple parties at once,” said John Choate, executive director of security at Wynn and Encore, to hospitality executives at a business luncheon earlier this year.

“These aren’t little tribal pieces in separate casinos,” he said. “It’s one system. We are Las Vegas, and the harm to one is harm to all.”

That system includes formal relationships between the resort industry and law enforcement.

In 2009, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reached an agreement with Metro Police to fund a new intelligence analyst position, which was then assigned to the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center, which is staffed by Metro, other state and local law enforcement agencies and federal authorities, including the FBI and the Homeland Security Department.

According to an article written by casino security expert and former Henderson Police Chief Tommy Burns, the analyst has a number of duties including:

• Working with the security community.

• Producing risk assessments for infrastructure.

• Analyzing and researching the suspicious activity reports.

• Researching and reviewing acts of terrorism directed against the hospitality sector around the world.

• Evaluating if counterterrorism tactics used elsewhere would be successful in Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center itself also works regularly with the resorts, Burns said, regularly sharing information among the various properties.

“The casinos get (intelligence) from the Counterterrorism Center,” Burns said. “They get an email blast every week from there.”

Neither the Metro nor the LVCVA has disclosed what role, if any, the analyst or the counterterrorism center played in the event on Oct. 1.

In addition, the analyst meets and shares information with another important local security group, the Las Vegas Security Chiefs Association (LVSCA).

According to the LVSCA website, the group, formed in 1987, has about 150 active members, including representatives from properties from Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Laughlin, Mesquite and Reno.

Burns said members of the group participate in training and discuss various issues.

Burns said law enforcement, including representatives from the “whole alphabet soup federal agencies“ are a regular presence at LVSCA gatherings.

In addition, according to Burns' article, in 2009, MGM Resorts International offered space at the Bellagio for a Resort Command Center. The center was staffed with the security officials from all the Strip resort properties and was used to monitor Las Vegas Boulevard that New Year's Eve and for NASCAR’s Race Weekend in March 2010.

Neither MGM nor Metro disclosed if the center is still being used for special events or if it was activated on Oct. 1.

Immediate aftermath

The day after the shooting, it appeared that security guards at the Wynn and the Encore had begun a new policy of using metal detecting wands to screen guests. Since then, the practice was reportedly stopped. Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn said on Fox News Sunday, “We don't wand the people at the door. That's not necessary.”

On Saturday night, there were reports that MGM properties were checking vehicles at select properties. On Monday, MGM confirmed in a statement that it is upgrading security:

“Security has been and continues to be a top priority at all of MGM Resorts. MGM Resorts works consistently with local and national law enforcement, first responder and emergency operations agencies, as well as intelligence services, private security consultants and professional security associations, to reassess security across the company and all of our properties to keep procedures at our resorts up to date.

“MGM Resorts’ security procedures are always improving and evolving, leveraging the benefits we are able to utilize as part of a large organization with a broad reach. We continue our close working relationships with security experts now during the ongoing investigation into this tragic incident.

“As our security team is working tirelessly to protect the safety of our guests and facilities, MGM Resorts has elevated its level of security to add to the level of comfort and safety of our guests and employees.”