Steve Wynn initiated proactive hotel security measures prior to Vegas massacre - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Steve Wynn initiated proactive hotel security measures prior to Vegas massacre

Since the October 1, 2017, Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 concert-goers dead and more than 800 wounded or injured some have asked if security measures at Vegas hotels should change after only one tragedy.

My answer to that is yes.

We already had one tragedy; do we want another one because more intrusive security measures may not be implemented?  I don’t think so, however, what I think doesn’t matter.  What do the owners of the Las Vegas resorts think is the question.  They profit from tourism.  You can’t put a price on a human life.

When Stephen Paddock brought in his arsenal of death into the MGM Resorts International owned Mandalay Bay Hotel, there were no security measures in place that deterred Paddock from bringing 23 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition including incendiary ammo into the building.

There were also no security measures in place that prevented Paddock from driving into and then parking his vehicle that contained over 50 pounds of explosive materials in the Mandalay Bay parking area.

That is a fact that no attorney can argue.

Paddock brought the weaponry and ammo into his suite that he used when he fired out the windows of his rooms inside the Mandalay Bay killing and wounding all those people.  There is no debate on that.

I have said consistently in all my stories that I have authored for the Baltimore Post-Examiner that that was a disgrace.  The massacre should never have happened, it was foreseeable, and it was preventable.

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001 warnings and recommendations from the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to the hotel industry obviously went unheeded.  I would deduct that equates to negligence.

Mandalay Bay security officers patrolled the rooming areas unarmed and therefore would be unable to take any action against an active shooter.

The primary responsibility for the safety and security of employees and guests at any Vegas property falls to the security forces on site and not to the police.  The hotel security forces are the first responders to any incident that occurs on their property.  Many are poorly trained and ill-equipped to handle today’s threats.

In September 2016, one year before the October 1 massacre on the Las Vegas Strip, then CEO of Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn, was interviewed by KTNV-TV’s Jon Ralston.

Steve Wynn was also one of the first Las Vegas hotel property owners to add K-9 explosive detection teams to his security force. When I was still in the industry a few years back the only properties that I knew of that had K-9 explosive detection teams in addition to Wynn Resorts were the Venetian and the Hard Rock Hotel.

There are no laws governing standardization of security measures on Nevada hotel properties.  There are also no laws requiring standardized training for security personnel working for the hotel industry.  In effect, the corporations can shell out as little or as much as they want for their internal security force.

The interview with Steve Wynn

Steve Wynn: “Finally, the international situation that has to do with the Jihadi movement.  Las Vegas is a target city.  We have hardened the target at the Wynn.  This is the first time I have revealed this publicly. But we went, there is a division in the Marine Corps of special people that are specially trained to guard the embassies.  It’s a whole division with separate base, separate training.  There are almost forty of them at every opening of my building, plainclothes, armed, on the lookout, changing shift and being relieved every two hours so they don’t get bored.”

Jon Ralston: “Wow, how long have you had that?”

Wynn: “The process started last December [2015] and became operational, that’s only part of it, and became operational about thirty days ago, fully operational [August 2016].  We have another group of half a dozen Seal Team Six guys and CIA guys who are our counter-terrorism unit that relates on a daily basis to Homeland Security, the FBI, and Metro [Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department]. My company has metal detectors and devices at every entrance to the building by employees and guests that are not visible to the public.  We have done extraordinary things to make sure we protect our employees and our guests at our hotel.

Ralston: “What made you so worried that you decided to take those steps?”

Wynn: “I guess my blessing is I think of myself as someone with imagination, so I can imagine terrible things happening.”

Ralston: “You think Vegas is a target?”

Wynn: “I don’t want terrible things to happen in Las Vegas and I certainly don’t want anything to happen to the people in my building, my fellow employees or my guests and so I think I got the da-da gene.  I’m responsible for the Wynn.”

Ralston: “You think Las Vegas is a bigger target maybe than other, I always thought since 911…”

Wynn: “The FBI and Homeland Security believe it is Jon.”

Ralston: “Is everybody else doing what you’re doing, or do you not know.?”

Wynn: “You know why we are a big target isn’t just the amorality of it in terms of what some Muslim might think, the Quran might be against what we do, our lifestyle of drinking, partying, that the city stands for.  But what Las Vegas does have like New York but more so is great concentrations of people. Like a football game but we have all these arenas and showrooms.  Massive amounts of people on the Strip.  Forty-three million people a year.  Eight hundred thousand turnovers twice a week, three and a half days stay for approximately 800 thousand people a week.  117,000 people a day.  This place is chock full, in a relatively small place between Sahara and Tropicana of all of those folks and they regularly congregate at night in ten and twenty thousand bundles.  This city is tempting for all those reasons and that is what the government has told us.

Ralston: “Is there ever been a credible threat?”

Wynn: “If you listen to Homeland Security and the FBI they’ve had stuff that they picked up electronically that talked about plans for this and that.  Have they ever arrested anybody in Las Vegas?  I don’t think so, you know a plot in progress that got thwarted, I never heard of that yet.  Thank goodness, but I know that anybody that thinks they’re going to do it on the property of Wynn or Encore is going to have a short brief life.”

What happened on the property of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the night of October 1 was preventable on many levels.

Wynn said he listened to what the US DHS and the FBI were saying, and he took action on his hotel properties with beefed up security measures.

Why one hotel resort owner had the vision and imagination to implement security measures that could have prevented Stephen Paddock from bringing an arsenal and explosives onto his property and another property owner did not might be the subject of arguments by attorneys involved in the civil litigation.

What it also boils down to many Vegas properties is money and public perception.

Security budgets take a backseat in many hotel-casinos in Las Vegas to other departments like marketing and advertising which are revenue producing departments.

K-9 explosive detection teams don’t exist on all properties again because of money and perception.  Some hotel owners don’t want canine teams on their property in fear that it will negatively impact the guest experience.  That is also why many years ago most Strip properties placed their security officers in colored blazers and got rid of the traditional police style security uniforms.  It was all about perception by their guests.

If one property implements screening procedures and another doesn’t, the property that does may worry that they will lose revenue when tourists go to the property where they are not inconvenienced by security measures.

There are two sides to that also.

Stephen Paddock knew that he would not be stopped and or scrutinized while he brought all those assault weapons and ammunition inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel.  He knew they weren’t screening vehicles for explosives.  Paddock exploited the weaknesses in security and we all saw the result.

If some hotel-casino owners are that naïve to think that there are not others out there right now thinking about doing a similar attack or worse in Las Vegas, then shame on them.  We have had one tragedy too many because of incompetence and negligence.

I wonder if Paddock would have attempted the same thing at a property that he knew had K-9 explosive detection teams walking by vehicles, guests and luggage and or other security measures.

Terrorist online magazines like Insight have threatened attacks in Las Vegas and other cities for years.  They even described Las Vegas as the “Den of Inequity.”

In May 2017 ISIS once again called for attacks in Las Vegas.

That same month the US Department of Homeland Security issued another warning about the increased threat of possible attacks by homegrown terrorists.

That still didn’t prompt many Las Vegas hotel-casinos from implementing further security measures.

The 2008 Mumbai, India hotel attacks were done by a small group of men with nothing but assault rifles and grenades.  Then Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Joe Lieberman, told Congress on January 8, 2009 that because of the attacks in India, “We need to look at the targets of this attack—and determine whether we are doing as much as we should be doing to appropriately protect our own “soft” targets…. such as hotels, sports arenas, and shopping malls.”

Those remarks were echoed by the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI throughout the years in many seminars and briefings that were offered to the Las Vegas hotel-casino industry.

The US DHS recommended among other measures, ensuring that security personnel and security measures are in place at all access points.  They also recommended that private corporations provide counter-assault training to their security forces responsible for site protection.

The measures that Steve Wynn said he implemented back in 2016 are the exception rather than the rule in Las Vegas.  The imagination and vision that prompted Wynn to revamp his security force is commendable, but sadly, it is not the norm in the hotel lodging industry.

The corporations who own the Las Vegas Strip properties when it comes to security and hardening their “soft” target properties are more akin to saying, “what are our chances that we’re going to be attacked, save the money and put into something that yields a more immediate return on investment.”

When they don’t take seriously their responsibility to protect their property and the persons on it, they gamble with people’s lives.

It has been over six months since the massacre in Las Vegas.

If it is still possible, right now, this minute, for any person to bring weapons, ammunition, and explosives onto any Las Vegas hotel property, as easily as Stephen Paddock did at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, then my friends nothing was learned from this tragedy.

Never forget all those who died and were wounded on the night of October 1, 2017, in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.


About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.
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