During my days in casino operations, I would gauge a good Monday by whether the director of security stopped by my office to fill me in on the antics of the weekend. If he didn’t show by 10:00 a.m., I knew I could make progress on my list of tasks and projects.
For most of us, security operates in the background. The department that lurks in the shadows cleaning up the messes, escorting unruly patrons off property or writing incident reports. This is how we prefer it… barely seen and barely heard. If this is the case, it means all is well with the world.
But when incidents like the Las Vegas shooting occur, it brings the importance of this department to the forefront. The security team either receives the accolades or the scrutiny depending on how the incident unfolds.
I have a great deal of respect for the security team. They put their personal safety on the line to protect our patrons and team members. As the manager on duty or general manager of a property, I always felt safer knowing the security team was a radio call away. I have watched them de-escalate difficult patron situations, save lives and even comfort a family member of someone who passed away while a visitor at the property.
The death of a visiting patron is a horrible situation and one that I thought I had a perspective on until recently. It was earlier this year that I received an awful call that my mom had passed away. What made the call even more distressing is that it came from my dad at a casino.
Let me back up. My mom was an avid casino enthusiast. She was the player every host department loved and the source of my lifelong gambling research. She had loyalty cards and offers from casinos throughout the West Coast, and even though my husband and I were in the industry, she would argue with us about how she had a “system for winning” on slot machines. Some people love golf; she loved slots and table games.
After a 10-year battle with lung cancer, my feisty won’t-stop mother found herself forced to ride a scooter in her last few months of life. This dramatically limited her mobility, but she could still easily visit casinos. My dad, as her chauffeur for 53 years, would load her in the car and take her to the one with the best direct mail offer for the weekend. After the trip, as she had my entire life, she would give me a report on her experience. Her last reports: there wasn’t any handicapped parking, the lighting was terrible in the parking lot, the aisles on the gaming floor were too tight, and there wasn’t an automatic door so she couldn’t get into the hotel.
In March, she had received a birthday offer and insisted on spending her birthday at one of her favorite casinos. According to my dad, they had a great day, but as they walked past the hotel front desk, my father noticed my mom was passing out. He yelled for help and, in his words, “The security team came out of nowhere and immediately began trying to revive her. She didn’t have a heartbeat, but they kept working on her for over an hour.” After a very long pause, he said, “They did all they could for her.”
Listening to my dad retell the ordeal was horrifying. However, it also brought me great relief to know that she had an immediate emergency response. I was also comforted by my dad’s appreciation for the security team and staff who had sat with him and consoled him during the long ordeal.
These life events frequently happen at our properties. Aside from being near a hospital or fire station, casinos are the safest places for seniors. It is a reality as operators we must consider and cultivate to ensure our patrons and staff are cared for properly.
A few things to consider:
- Buy the necessary emergency equipment and train the staff. In a budget meeting, I heard a former CFO ask whether security really needed the $10,000 defibrillator. Fortunately, the entire executive team rallied for the security director; even reminding him a few months later when the first life was saved by the purchase.
- Have the general manager reach out to the family after an incident. A simple call or note to say, “We are sorry for your loss.” A small gesture to tell this person mattered to us and was more than just “coin in.”
- Communicate the incident to the club so the offers stop. Kudos to this property…the mail to my mom immediately stopped. However, months after her death, offers continue to come to the house, even though I have personally requested stop mail numerous times from various other properties.
- Have a plan to take care of those team members who witnessed the trauma. Are they immediately sent back on rounds or are they given the opportunity to process these emotional experiences? What type of training is provided to help them, if any?
- Raving’s Security and Surveillance Partner, Jen Boss, CSP, COO of DJ Boss Associates, also recommends the following steps be considered:
- As far as minimum requirements, most security officers should be trained in basic first aid and providing oxygen if necessary, as well as life saving measures such as CPR and AED meant to stabilize the patient until paramedics arrive on scene. All officers must be certified annually on CPR and AED. Some companies require actual simulations annually to qualify and quarterly drills.
- At an average-size casino, security teams could see three to five medical incidents per shift. That’s an average of 9-15 per day or 63-105 per week. And that’s just an average-size casino; a larger casino in Las Vegas has been reported to have 20,000 paramedic runs in a year.
- All this is in addition to security officers protecting guests, responding to emergency situations, de-escalating situations, dealing with intoxicated guests, handling missing property, providing welfare checks, crowd control, parking control, traffic control, guest service, breaking up arguments/fights, assisting with unaccompanied minors, providing both employee and guest escorts, patrolling the property, looking for missing property, handling found property and so on.
This experience made me proud of my fellow industry colleagues. The professionalism and care they showed on the most difficult day of my dad’s life and knowing that my mom spent her last day doing what she loved will be forever appreciated.
I would like to recognize the Spirit Mountain Casino security team and staff for their expertise and professionalism in the way they handled my mother’s death, and offer a special thank you to Onie McNary and Julia Willis for sitting with my dad.