Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2017

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How Nevada Gaming Control Board helped investigation of shooter Paddock

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Christopher DeVargas

The broken window from the 32nd floor of Mandalay bay, where Stephen Paddock shot at civilians attending the Route 91 Festival, is seen through palm trees, Tuesday. Oct 3, 2017.

As the investigation of the massacre on the Las Vegas Strip continues, law enforcement officials have had help tracking the movements of shooter Stephen Paddock — the Nevada Gaming Control Board and its close relationships with almost every gaming company in the state.

That support has helped investigators so far apparently eliminate gambling debts or conflicts about wagers as motives for the shooting.

In a recent interview, Sheriff Joe Lombardo credited the Gaming Control Board with help in tracking the gambling history of Paddock, who was an avid video poker player.

“Who has provided us a substantial amount of information is Gaming Control,” Lombardo said. “They’ve provided all the historical knowledge associated with his winnings and losses. Through that evaluation, it doesn’t appear that he had any debt.”

In the shooting’s immediate aftermath, Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett dispatched board agents — who are considered peace officers under Nevada law — to help secure casinos around the state.

But later, as the search for motives got underway, the agents were also asked to see what, if any, information they could discover about Paddock.

Unless a casino suspects and reports someone for suspicious behavior the board would not have information on an individual gambler’s wins and losses. It was able to give Metro that information, Burnett said, only after its agents reached out to casinos across Nevada.

“We’ve asked the licensees to provide any information they have, and the licensees have been really very good to work with,” he said.

As the agents contacted the gaming companies, Burnett said they found the casinos had already gathered much of the information they wanted from their databases.

Casinos track players in a number of ways. Most have player loyalty programs that track the gaming activity of members. They also often separately track players who gamble significant amounts of money, as Paddock is reported to have done.

Burnett said his agents asked for “anything and everything” the casinos had on Paddock.

Burnett said the Board had at least 10 agents dedicated to the investigation, and all six of the board’s divisions were asked to participate. “Some divisions didn’t need to contact companies for this; others did,“ Burnett said.

Burnett would not provide the number of companies that the agents contacted nor how many confirmed that Paddock was a customer.

Burnett also asked his employees to determine whether Paddock or his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, had any direct dealings with the board. According to Burnett, there are several ways in which Paddock’s name could have ended up in the board’s databases.

If Paddock were an owner of a licensed gaming company or worked for one as a key executive, he would have undergone an extensive background check and would have had to appear before both the board and the Nevada Gaming Commission. Paddock was neither of those, Burnett said.

The board also keeps tabs on other casino employees, such as casino cage cashiers, change personnel, dealers and some hosts and hostesses. Danley was a high-limit area hostess at the Atlantis Casino in Reno.

These employees must be registered. That involves a background check, but that check is far less onerous than what owners and key executives undergo.

“She was registered as an (employee),” Burnett said. That’s name, address and telephone number. That’s it.” Paddock was never a registered casino employee, Burnett said.

Paddock could have also found himself on the board’s radar if he had a dispute with a casino. Any gaming patron who takes issue with the results or conduct of a game can ask the board to investigate.

If the player and the casino resolve the dispute on their own, however, the board would never hear about it. Burnett said the board had no evidence of any such dispute. (Paddock did file a nongaming lawsuit against the Cosmopolitan.)

“Somebody was floating the rumor that there was a formal patron dispute,” Burnett said. “Those are instances of when a slot machines breaks or something like that, or player doesn’t like how the table was dealt by dealer,” Burnett said.

“I said early on that we would do a deep dive into our records. That was to try to determine if this guy had a gaming license or any kind of registration or approval, and he did not. If he had dealings with casinos, they were all resolved at the casino level.”

As far as he can tell, Burnett said that Paddock had no contact with Nevada’s gaming regulatory bureaucracy. “I even had the secretaries and assistants do a record check see if he ever called or contacted us, and he didn’t,” Burnett said.

It took three days for the board to gather all the information from casinos and its own files, Burnett said. At this point, Burnett said the board is no longer involved in the investigation.