Business & Economy

Vegas hotel security is largely a secret — but not at the Wynn

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More than 40 million people visit Las Vegas each year, and Southern Californians make up about one-quarter of those visitors.

In the wake of Sunday's mass shooting, some are now questioning what hotels are doing to protect their guests, and whether they should be doing more. KPCC set out to answer those questions.

Are any Vegas hotels taking extraordinary measures to protect guests?

The Wynn and Encore casinos have enacted strict security measures in recent years. In 2016, Steve Wynn spoke about it in an interview with KTNV, the ABC station in Las Vegas.

Wynn said he decided to implement a comprehensive security initiative out of concern that Las Vegas could be a target for jihadist terrorists.

KPCC reached out to Mr. Wynn this week to no avail. But we culled some of the most illuminating parts of his 2016 interview below.

"My company has metal detectors and devices at every entrance of the building, for employees and guests, that are not visible to the public," he said.

Wynn said he also hired former Marines who previously worked as security guards at U.S. embassies around the world.

"There are almost 40 of them at every opening of my building. Plainclothes, armed, on the lookout, changing shifts and being relieved every two hours so they don't get bored," he said.

Wynn said he also employs a handful of former Seal Team 6 veterans and former CIA agents, who are in regular contact with Homeland Security, the FBI and Las Vegas Metro Police.

The Wynn Hotel also has a strict no guns policy. So if a metal detector beeps or a guard sees something suspicious, he will stop the guest, ask to look inside bags, and refuse to allow guests onto the property with a gun.

The Wynn stepped up security measures even further after Sunday night's attack. KTNV-TV in Las Vegas reported Wednesday that all hotel guests were going through a search and metal detection screening before entering the property. The station also reported that security at most other hotels on the Strip appeared to be unchanged. 

What about the rest of the hotels in Vegas?

We don't know. Hotels typically keep their security protocols private.

So while you will see orbs in casino ceilings (indicating surveillance cameras), security guards walking the hotel floor and metal detectors at nightclub entrances, there might be additional security features you don't see behind the scenes. 

For that reason, it is hard to know if other hotels do as much as the Wynn and Encore.

KPCC spoke with John Choate, who helped implement Wynn's security initiative and served as the head of security at the Wynn until recently. He said knowing what he knows about the extent of the security measures at the Wynn and Encore, it would be unlikely that a guest would have been able to sneak guns in.

What about in Los Angeles?

L.A. has several high rise hotels that overlook big public spaces, especially in downtown L.A. and Hollywood. KPCC reached out to the new Intercontinental Hotel and the JW Marriott, which are both high rises near LA Live.

The Intercontinental did not comment.

The JW Marriott sent the following statement:

"Hotel security has always been one of our top priorities to keep both customers and associates safe.  Security procedures and risk assessments at our properties are reviewed often, and we typically re-evaluate them after tragic acts like this to determine what, if any, changes may need to be made.

"Each of our properties, including LA Live, is unique, so individual security measures are tailored to each property. As a result, we have a range of security measures in place throughout and around the hotels.  I’m sure you can understand that as a policy we do not discuss the specifics of our security measures."

Might other hotels do what Wynn did?

It will likely depend on what customers demand.

Choate believes the Las Vegas shooting will compel hotel guests to demand to know more about security procedures, and they may choose hotels that make their security more obvious, even if it comes with a higher cost.

"People will make a choice predicated on, 'Im willing to pay a premium in order for a peace of mind.' I think it’s that simple," he said.

Choate says he could even imagine some hotels enacting a TSA-style luggage check to put guests at ease.

This story has been updated to reflect the intensified security at the Wynn following the Las Vegas shooting.