Gaming panel studying Vegas tragedy

State House News Service

BOSTON -- In the wake of the mass shooting that left 58 dead in Las Vegas last week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission began talking to regulators in other states about what casinos can do to prevent or respond to shootings and terrorist attacks.

At least three of the state's top gaming regulators were in Las Vegas for an industry conference that began the morning after the Oct. 1 mass shooting and said at Thursday's commission meeting that casino safety was at the forefront of everyone's mind.

"As a commission, we need to be cognizant of public safety issues, which we are, and as with any major public safety incident, we will be attentive to the after-action plans and lessons learned," Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian said. "As part of the conference and meeting with other regulators, we were able to actually start some of those best practice conversations with other regulators around things like active shooter exercises specific to casinos."

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby was in Las Vegas the night of the shooting and from his hotel room "heard what I now know were shots, but I didn't know what they were. I thought it was just noise coming from up above me. I could see Mandalay Bay right out there," Crosby said, referring to the hotel from which the gunman unleashed his barrage.

"It was a horrifying time to be out there," he said.

Crosby's meetings as part of the Global Gaming Expo included talks with other top state gaming regulators, including Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.

G. Burnett, about how states that already have resort casinos protect them and respond to incidents there.

"We were able to have a lot of conversations about active shooter training, terrorism training, what are other jurisdictions doing," Crosby said. "Other jurisdictions are farther along than we are for obvious reasons, and there is a lot to be learned and a lot of good conversations were had on that."

Though a slots parlor has been open in Plainville for about two years, no full-scale casinos have opened in Massachusetts since the state OK'ed casino gaming in 2011. MGM Springfield is expected to be the first resort casino in the Bay State when it opens next September. Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett is also under construction and is expected to open its doors to players in June 2019.

Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who retired from the New Jersey State Police as a lieutenant colonel, was also in Vegas last week and said that Massachusetts had been working on fortifying relationships between casino operators and law enforcement well before the Oct. 1 mass shooting.

"Long before this happened our (Massachusetts State Police) along with Springfield PD, Everett PD, Plainville PD, they've had numerous conversations about how to collaborate and meetings, in particular, about these subjects; how they will work together to keep these facilities safe," Cameron said Thursday. "Those conversations and meetings have started and will continue. All of them very well trained and I'm just impressed by the collaborative efforts I see."

In 2016, Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn told a Las Vegas news outlet, "Las Vegas is a target city. We have hardened the target at the Wynn," and described security measures he has put in place at his casinos. MGM Resorts has said it has heightened security at its properties since the shooting at its Mandalay Bay property.

An executive from another casino told Business Insider last week that the Vegas shooting "could be a turning point" for casino security efforts.

"Every management team is going to move this up to the top of the list," the anonymous executive said.