Laughlin casino fined $500,000 for excessive force by security

March 21, 2024 8:40 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
March 21, 2024 8:40 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

The Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday signed off on a half-million-dollar fine against the Riverside Resort & Casino in Laughlin for two incidences of excessive use of force by its security team in summer 2022.

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John Michela, senior deputy attorney general for the state Gaming Commission, outlined the case against the Donald J. Laughlin Gaming Trust, which does business under the Riverside Resort name.

“The allegations in the complaint are serious,” Michela said. “However, Riverside has put into place significant measures to hopefully ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The complaint involves two incidents of misconduct by Riverside security staff.

In August 2022, a Riverside employee suspected of smoking marijuana on shift was detained and held by security without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, the complaint said. The employee was later told he was terminated and attempted to leave, but was thrown to the ground by security, punched five times, handcuffed, and put him in a holding cell. Later, the employee hit his head on the metal cell wall, knocking him unconscious. Video surveillance showed the employee didn’t use any force, the complaint said.

After an investigation by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, four Riverside security officers were arrested for coercion with physical force and false imprisonment. The charges were amended to battery and false imprisonment and were later dismissed, predicated on the officers staying out of trouble and going through impulse counseling.

The second incident occurred a month earlier in July 2022. Excessive force was employed by Riverside security in escorting a patron off the premises after he refused to vacate an area where a slot drop was being performed, Michela said. While outside, he was pushed to the ground face first and handcuffed. He had to be transported to the hospital after complaining of a leg injury.

“Through the settlement, Riverside admits all of the allegations of the complaint,” Michela said.

Matt Laughlin, the chief operating officer of the Riverside Resort, said four employees have been dismissed in the incidents and one was reassigned.

“The security director who hired these individuals was terminated,” Laughlin said. “We now have a new security director. By bringing in outside professional-security training, there’s been a complete mindset shift in what to look for in hiring. We raised our wages significantly to get a better-quality security guard. We now have a full crew. At that time, we were running light. I believe we’re in a much better place and the culture is much better.”

Riverside Resort attorney Greg Giordano said the former security director had an inappropriate attitude in dealing with people and the security staff’s “personality defects came out in a very bad fashion.”

Giordano argued that the casino had no regulatory responsibility to report the incident to the Gaming Control Board, but said it was a good business practice to do so.

The Board disagreed.

“(It) should have been reported when an employee was falsely accused and knocked out for 18 minutes,” said Commissioner Ogonna Brown. “That seems pretty egregious and should be voluntarily disclosed. I understand that technically, it may not have been mandated, but a patron that’s shoved to the ground and hospitalized should have been disclosed out of your own volition. I was disturbed by that. I get that you’re talking about mandates and requirements, but business judgments should compel these types of incidents to be reported to the board.”

The property has been open since 1966 and this is the first time it’s been disciplined by the Board, Giordano said.

Commission Chair Jennifer Togliatti said the quality-control steps taken by the casino are appropriate and companies “get what they pay for” when they fail to bring in quality security staff with higher wages. “It seems like you’ve done everything you can do to keep this from happening again,” Togliatti said.