Big Jackpots at Casinos Lead to Big Security Risks for Sometimes Distracted Winners

Casino winnings can reach over $1 million — and one Flamingo Las Vegas player recently won over $6.4 million at a table game. What can jubilant winners do to ensure their safety after they hit the big money?

Derk Boss
Derk Boss
Derk Boss, pictured above. He is a casino security consultant. Boss said winners need to see if anyone is paying too much attention, acting suspiciously, or trying to engage in conversation. (Image: Derk Boss)

Casino security experts told that these lucky patrons must remain aware of their surroundings. That could be on the gaming floor, in the casino’s parking garage or lot, or even on their way home.

“There have been a few follow-home robberies from casinos across the country within the past few years, where serious injuries and homicides of the patrons have resulted,” Charles H. Barry, principal of Charles H. Barry and Associates, a Las Vegas-based forensic security consulting firm, revealed.

He has been in senior security management for Tropicana Entertainment, Harrah’s Entertainment, Park Place Entertainment, and Hilton Hotels Corporation. He is also a former FBI agent and police officer.

Violent and deadly incidents took place after players were followed home from gaming properties in such locations as Missouri, New Jersey, and Maryland.

To minimize risk, security guards can brief winners about available safeguards, such as what to look out for and how to protect themselves, Barry said. Players can ask for help, too.

We want a player to let us know if they want an escort to their car when they have winnings or just feel uncomfortable, especially in today’s world,” Derk Boss, principal of Las Vegas’s DJ Boss Associates, a security consultant, added.

He has been in security and surveillance management at Palms Casino Resort, Excalibur Hotel & Casino, both in Nevada, as well as Angel Of The Winds Casino Resort in Washington State.

Boss said winners need to see if anyone is paying too much attention, acting suspiciously, or trying to engage in conversation, perhaps trying to elicit personal information. If so, immediately report them to security staff or other casino employees.

Casino security should offer to walk the winner to the player’s vehicle or hotel room. The guard should be armed if possible.

Surveillance Technology

The surveillance department should make a video of the guard as he/she walks with the winner. Make sure to videotape any suspicious individuals or activities along the way.

The casino surveillance department also should follow the patron’s vehicle until it departs the property, obtaining the license plate number of any vehicles that may be behind the vehicle.

Many gaming properties also use license plate recognition and facial recognition technology.

What this means is that we normally can identify suspects prior to their entry and/or should they return after committing a crime,” Boss said.

Given these safeguards, would-be criminals may try hide their features. That makes them suspicious from when they first enter a casino.

Barry also recommends that casinos should post uniformed and plain clothes security officers close to a casino cage to monitor activities.

Also, players should ask for a check instead of cash for winnings, especially if it is a larger sum.

If the winner is staying at the hotel, they should keep winnings temporarily in the cashier’s cage or in a safety deposit box. Winnings should be placed in a financial institution as soon as possible.

Drive To Police Station

If it appears someone is following a player’s car as they drive home, the driver should head to the nearest police station.

If the driver does not know where the police station is located, calling 911 is the next best option.

Even if you follow these safeguards, there are still risks, advises Tommy J. Burns, a former Henderson, Nev. police chief.

His advice comes from experience as a privacy officer at the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, and as security director at Harrah’s Las Vegas and The Flamingo Hotel & Casino.

You may be advertised as a big winner, money put in the bank, but casinos most often want your pic to promote winners,” Burns said. “Subsequently, everyone now knows you won 100K.”

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