LAS VEGAS – Stadiums, commercial buildings and other facilities that draw crowds have strengthened their security since 9/11, and in return, they have earned US protection in the event that their efforts fail to prevent a terrorist attack and they are accused of. But the hotels have not received the same security measures.
Las Vegas’ world-famous casino resorts have long been known to be of interest to terrorists, but the constant flow of people can be a challenge to earn liability protection under a little known federal law, an expert said. For the first time, the law is in the middle of a legal battle after MGM Resorts International invoked to sue hundreds of victims of the deadly shooting in modern U.S. history to avoid paying for lawsuits.
The law was adopted in 2002 to reduce development and the use of anti-terrorism technologies by companies as a way to limit liability if their federal government vetted and approved products or services will not prevent an attack. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has certified hundreds of security systems, software and equipment, ranging from unarmed guards in shopping malls to the flight deck doors.
A publicly accessible database of all federal government-approved security technologies does not list hospitality companies. Homeland Security is not known which companies have sought approvals and were denied.
The Associated Press asked four of the largest casino operators — MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, whether they have applied for certification. Only MGM offered a general comment.
“MGM Resorts’ security teams work closely with the federal, state and local police and we follow the DHS, the FBI, and standards and training for a variety of situations, including terrorism,” spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement. “If it is necessary to engage contract security vendors, we seek the best security services available for the given event and the location.”
A high-stakes player opened fire from the windows of a room in the MGM’s Mandalay Bay casino-resort last year, the killing of 58 people at a concert of which the contractor-provided security, the federal government certified.
Casino operators who are interested in earning federal approvals, the state government that the safety in their properties are not only looking for gambling cheaters, but also signs of terrorism, said lawyer Brian Finch, who has helped dozens of clients get their systems certified. He said companies can identify which part of their property that they want to get certified, or is it only the casino, hotel tower and convention center.
“Many of these cameras have anti-theft and anti-cheating,” Finch said. “What would they have shown that these cameras are equally useful for terrorist threats, such as the setting of the knife fights or someone who is trying something on their ventilation system.”
Not every hotel is eligible to receive federal approvals, Finch said, but high-profile properties may be eligible, given the efforts that companies make to protect their assets and guests. The challenge for the hospitality industry is that unlike at a concert, people are constantly coming and going, ” he said.
Casino security experts told the AP that the security personnel on the Las Vegas casino-resorts all look out for signs of terrorism, not only with respect to gambling problems, and work closely with the authorities to identify best practices. The security leaders of virtually all the major casino operators also regularly with each other.
“It really does not matter what the crime, or terrorism, or someone who is looking for the rob a guest, or burglarize a hotel room, that is where they are looking for,” said Robert Gardner, a security and crime prevention adviser. “And there are common indicators to all of them. What it comes down to is things and activities that take place.”
The security of systems federal approved is free, but the process is strict. Finch said he often tells potential applicants that their technologies are not yet ready.
Companies are able to seek the approval for a number of their properties.
For Example, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., a commercial real estate company with properties in North America, has held that certification since 2013 for a set of policies and procedures to deter, slow down and reduce terrorist attacks on the World Financial Center-retail and office building in New York.
In the past few years, stadiums nationwide are looking to the US to sign-off. Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and Citi Field in New York are some of the most recent approvals.
Contemporary Services Corp., that provides security services in the U.S., including Super Bowls, was responsible for MGM’s outdoor concert venue on the Las Vegas Strip where the victims were shot Oct. 1.
Less than six months before, a set of CSC’s “enhanced customer-driven activities, including physical security, access control and crowd management” have been certified by Homeland Security. Now, MGM is with that diplomas to argue that it is not liable for any survivors or family of victims killed.
Some experts on the federal law do not agree with MGM’s interpretation of it. And the company lawsuits led Homeland Security to say that the secretary has the authority to determine whether a law was a “terrorist act” under the law, and “has no such provision with respect to” the pictures.
Finch said the Las Vegas mass shooting and similar incidents can lead hotel operators and other companies to consider looking to the protection offered under the Support Anti-terrorism by fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002.
“The incentive is the protection of the liability if something terrible happens,” he said.