Due to the timing of this year’s Global Gaming Expo, I was in Las Vegas the evening of October 1 when Steven Paddock shot at people attending an outdoor concert from his hotel room on the 32nd floor at Mandalay Bay, killing 59 and injuring more than 500. Unfortunately, this is the second time I have had a front row seat to an act of mass murder—I was working in a midtown Manhattan office building during the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Take my word for it… twice is two times too many for something like this, and I’m really hoping there is not a third.
Although these two events took place years apart and in different regions of the country, the immediate response from people who lived through them was the same—numbed shock, followed by the need to talk it out and help in any way they could. Having been through something like this before, the only solace I can provide to anyone touched by this tragedy is somewhat trite but true—each day will be better than the previous one. As a species, we humans are hardwired to experience trauma, survive, contemplate and then carry on. It also helps to help, something the gaming industry as a whole has always been good at when it comes to disasters, both natural and man-made. I was not surprised to see that a number of leading gaming operators immediately gave millions of dollars to victim funds or that the American Gaming Association (AGA) is helping to gather donations or that hundreds of local casino employees are actively involved in the Vegas Strong fundraising effort.
Charity efforts aside, at some point, the industry as a whole will have to address the events on October 1 and what can be done to address the problem to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In the days following the shooting, it was revealed that Wynn Resorts has already taken steps to “harden” itself as a potential target for violence—installing hidden metal detectors and hiring former Navy SEAL, FBI and CIA agents as plain clothes security guards to man various posts throughout the facility. It may be wise for gaming resorts in the U.S. and elsewhere to take similar steps to ensure patron safety as well as to consider more all-encompassing surveillance measures and updated active shooter security guidelines. I hope that this will be enough, because if casinos continue to be targets, the next steps will be very onerous—metal detectors at all entrances, choke points, the need to create multiple ways to evacuate a casino, armed guards…measures that will have resorts looking more like airports than entertainment venues.
Unfortunately, it will cost millions of dollars for all these enhancements, all or most of which will be footed by gaming operators. But there is a less expensive way for the gaming industry to resolve this situation from a cost/benefit analysis standpoint—have assault weapons made illegal. Indeed, from a pure economic perspective, all enterprises that rely on visitation and crowds of people for success should be fighting for tougher regulations for assault and concealed weapons. Simply put, these types of weapons provide no added revenue benefits for gaming operators, are bad for business when a shooting takes place, and cost millions of dollars to defend against their threat. Taking on the gun lobby is also expensive, but it would send a strong message about the industry’s commitment to public safety.
The odds of meaningful gun reform are long, but understanding and overcoming the odds is something at which the gaming industry has always excelled.