Every Casino’s Nightmare is Here!

Our worst nightmare has happened; a casino in the Philippines was the target of an armed attacker.  In a world dominated by real and imagined terror attacks, everyone is worried about the potential of an attack in their immediate environment.  As London reels from yet another attack, most cities are trying to devise security plans to protect their citizens.  Particularly at risk are public gatherings like the concert in London or popular meeting places as in Paris.  The first major attack on a casino took place in the Philippines on Friday, June 2nd, when an armed man walked into Resorts World in Manila. Before it was over 37 people were dead and many others suffered harm from smoke inhalation or in a panic induced stampede while attempting to escape.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and praised the martyr for his brave death.  Casinos all over the world started to think seriously about terrorism. Lawmakers in the Philippines are set to begin an investigation into the tragedy.   Regulators in Macau called all the gaming operators to a meeting to discuss increasing security.  Las Vegas had already begun planning to install “bollards” – posts designed to prevent cars from driving onto sidewalks. The Mississippi Gaming Commission issued guidance requiring casinos to submit active shooter response plans. We are certain to see more responses from individual casino operators and from state and national governments and industry regulators.  A series of recent events has pushed the level of angst worldwide to new heights.  In some places fear has reached the point of hysteria; in Turin, Italy 1500 people were injured in a stampede when the crowd at a soccer match “was taken by panic and by the psychosis of a terror attack.”  No one knows exactly what happened, but officials think people heard a loud noise and immediately assumed a terrorist attack was underway. Like the gamblers in Manila they panicked and attempted to flee, killing each other in the process.

The fear is understandable. Just one day after the incident in Manila, three men in London armed with knives entered two different restaurants shouting jihadist messages and proceeded to stab as many people as possible. The knife attacks followed attempts to run down pedestrians on London Bridge; in all, seven people were killed and 48 people were injured in the attacks.  Where will it end?  British Prime Minister, Teresa May says “enough is enough.”  Fine words, but what can be done to stop this seemingly endless stream of assaults on our culture and lives?

We call it terrorism, but that is not always the case.  In Manila the masked man turned out to be a former employee of the Philippine Department of Finance.  He was a gambler who had incurred a very large debt.  In his attack he did not shoot anyone; the injuries and deaths were all from smoke or the stampede.  The smoke came from fires the man set as he moved through the casino collecting about $2.3 million in gaming chips.  In the end he fled to a hotel room, set himself on fire and then put his gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.  He was not a terrorist, just a deranged person who committed irrational acts that injured and killed other people.

The unhinged, lone assailant is just as common as the terrorist yelling, Allah Akbar.”  On May 26th, in Portland Oregon one such man stabbed and killed two people when they interrupted his verbal assault on two Muslim women riding a city bus. In Charleston South Carolina, a 22 year-old white man shot and killed nine African Americans during a prayer service.  In Orlando, Florida a disgruntled former employee killed five of his former co-workers and then killed himself. The man in Portland wanted to protect Americans from Muslims; the one in South Carolina wanted to protect the white race from the black race. The man in Orlando wanted to punish people he blamed for losing his job. Remember Columbine High School?  Two students attacked their school, killing 13 and wounding 20 more.  Clearly, Islamic terrorists are not the only threat to our society, nor are they necessarily the most pressing threat.  Irrational people who are willing to kill and die to express their hatred are the real threat. Sometimes they can be declared terrorists as they were in London, but at other times the killers are motivated by nothing more than anger and a desire to cause pain.

All public gathering places, including casinos, are going to become more closely regulated.  Las Vegas and possibly Atlantic City are considered the prime targets for attention-seeking terrorists.  However, in truth all casinos are targets.  The man who wishes to get revenge on his wife by killing her and her family in a public place could choose a casino.  Any bigot might seek targets in the local casino and of course the disgruntled gambler is most certainly going to target the source of his pain, a casino.  Years ago, I remember an angry gambler tried to drive his car through the front door of a casino to punish someone for an imagined wrong.  At the time, it was it was terrible occurrence, but in today’s world it would almost be a joke, a caricature of horrendous things being perpetrated by people without compassion or a sense of social justice.

The attacks that kill or injure people are all horrific, but the impact does not end with the slaughter, it continues long afterwards.  Much as 9/11 changed flying forever, the more recent attacks threaten to permanently change our culture.  Since that fateful day in 2001, I have lost my freedom of speech in airports.  I cannot challenge any official or policy; if I do I can be taken off a plane or denied boarding and arrested.  I fear the same thing will happen to all public speech.  Excluding the man in Manila, the other attackers referred to here had been very vocal.  They had openly expressed their anger, hate and desire to harm others.  Each time an incident has occurred, there have been calls for investigations and lawmakers righteously say “something” has to be done.  The easiest first step is to arrest all of those people making inflammatory and dangerous statements.

The event in Resorts World was a terrible tragedy and one that will very likely alter casino gaming in ways we cannot begin to imagine.  I see two changes that almost certainly will be implemented in some jurisdictions.  First, casinos will be required to maintain lists of “do not allow” people. Incidentally, meeting the requirements will require video surveillance with face recognition technology and armed guards at the door checking IDs.  Secondly, some jurisdictions will require metal scanners and other screening devices will be placed at all entrances; rather like the governmental buildings in the aftermath of 9/11.  We are locked in a frightening dilemma between individual freedoms and public safety.  And that, my friend, is my worst nightmare and it is just starting.


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June 2017
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