Sunday, February 06, 2000

Casinos watch security


Shooting unusual for industry

BY MARIE McCAIN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Twenty minutes after an armed off-duty police officer shot himself in the head at a Detroit blackjack table, Ken Braunstein's phone rang.

        A Reno, Nev.-based, national casino security consultant who has worked in the industry for 15 years, Mr. Braunstein immediately began fielding media calls about the safety of casinos, and how such an incident could have been prevented.

        His answer: It couldn't.

        But, he quickly added, casinos such as Indiana riverboats the Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg and the Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun, are still some of the most secure places in the country.

        “If you're concerned about your safety, don't go to minimarts after dark. Go to the casinos. You'll be a lot safer,” he said. “Very little (crime) happens in a casino considering how many people are in them.”

        On Jan. 26, 38-year-old Solomon Bell, an off-duty sergeant with the Oak Park Police Department in suburban Detroit, lost thousands of dollars playing high-stakes blackjack.

        Officials at the MotorCity Casino where Sgt. Bell played his last game said the officer lost about $4,000 on a single hand at a $100-minimum game.

        He then pulled his gun and fired a shot into his temple so abruptly that no one had time to stop him.

        Although each state with legalized gambling has its own way of doing things, many states, including Michigan, prohibit weapons inside the casinos.

        In Indiana, state law also bars people from bringing weapons into gaming establishments, said Jennifer Arnold, director of external affairs for the Indiana Gaming Commission. If caught carrying a weapon, the person has to relinquish it, she said.

        If the person refuses, he is ejected from the casino. The law also requires the riverboats to post signs informing patrons of the prohibition of weapons on boats and to provide a place for people to check their firearms.

        “There have been a handful of incidents where people have carried weapons onto the boats,” Mrs. Arnold said of Indiana's nine riverboats.

        Many times, people ignore the signs, she said.

        At Grand Victoria, which opened in 1996, there has been one incident in which a person carried a weapon onto the boat and was caught, said Rick Probst, the casino's director of security.

        The person had a permit to carry the weapon, but was unaware of state law, Mr. Probst said, adding that the gun was checked and the person was allowed to remain on the boat.

        In 1999, a 25-year-old Louisville man threatened to kill himself in a parking garage of the Caesar's riverboat casino in New Albany, Ind., after leaving a cruise.

        Authorities were able to subdue him before he hurt himself, but it is believed he carried his handgun onto the boat.

        Officials at Argosy declined to disclose their security policies or information about any similar incidents.

        Though safety is a high priority in the industry, security experts are hesitant to use more obvious security measures because they fear it might turn people away.

        “To be more secure you must give up some of your freedom and people are only willing to give up so much to be secure,” Mr. Braunstein said.

        Mr. Probst agreed.

        Casinos are considered part of the hospitality industry and frisking someone or making them go through a metal detector isn't the most hospitable situation, he said.

        As a result, casinos rely heavily on surveillance cameras and utilize uniformed and plainclothes gaming commission agents to watch people. Ultimately, security experts agree that the amount of problems are minimal considering the millions of people who visit casinos annually.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

       



Virtual University clicks for students
'Why did police shoot my son?'
Last look at Carpenter shooting
Ohio not impossible dream for McCain
Closing door on Bethesda's 102 years
Better late than never
Deal might stymie rail station
Neighbors now top concern of rail planners
Last school dash greeted with joy, trepidation
Sprawl boosting water bills
- Casinos watch security
Queen City's moments to shine reflected in book
Bauer ends run with style
NKU student dies in sand bin at plant
Salon star a real draw
'Wit' role under her skin
Ballet stages wickedly fun 'Musketeers'
Bio sings Marian Anderson's praises
Book fair spotlights young black writers
Cammy tickets on sale Monday
Cincinnatian was friend of famous concert singer
Exhibit links art, blindness
GET TO IT
'Going to do it,' writer says as he takes the plunge
He's partyin' like he's 60
Tenth is a journey into Mahler's mind
This is no little teapot, short and stout
Dr. King's dream deferred
Butler County native makes sweet music in Hollywood
Avenue to open way for offices
Double celling considered for Warren jail
House candidate just moved to Ky.
Juvenile-justice reform in jeopardy
Kentucky legislators get earful on issues
Mayors take marrying to heart
Newport retools plan for housing
Traficant steels himself against legal, political challenges
TRISTATE DIGEST