Poker Players Concerned with Rio Security During WSOP
As the 2014 World Series of Poker (WSOP) rolls along at the Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, a couple of stories have surfaced recently that have brought attention to potential security issues at the property. For a property that does not have the best reputation for security in the first place, these incidents have escalated concern amongst poker players.
The first problems were brought to light at the end of May by PokerNews.com, which noticed tweets from poker players staying at the Rio. On the night of May 27th, Finnish pro Lauri Pesonen tweeted, “Both my and @Jouhkb’s laptops stolen from our room at Rio. Everything else, wallets, ipads etc still here. EPT Barcelona again?”
The next day, Manh Nguyen tweeted that “large sums of money” had been taken from his hotel room. He later told PokerNews that he and his friend, Jimmy Chen, checked into the Rio early on the evening of May 27th. They dropped their bags in the room and headed out to dinner. Upon arriving back at their room at about midnight, they found $35,000 had been stolen from said bags. Interestingly, nothing else was stolen and it did not even appear that the culprit(s) had searched the room beyond the bag. The mean filed a police report, but were discouraged to learn that there are no security cameras in the hotel hallways, only in the elevators.
Later, Joni Jouhkimainen, the friend mentioned in Pesonen’s tweet, posted, “Just found out that the guys also took our sanitary bags and sunglasses instead of iPad&wallets wtf . Whats wrong with this people.”
On the morning of May 29th, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel made it known that the WSOP is aware of the issue, tweeting, “We take these allegations very seriously and are meeting with security/hotel management this morning to have a comprehensive discussion. We will report back to everyone soon. Thank you.”
Not much else has come out about what happened since then, but it did spark discussion in the poker community. Of course, the number one piece of advice was to not leave valuables unsecured in a Rio hotel room. The room safe should be used for things such as tablets, laptops, and reasonable amounts of cash. And because the room safes aren’t immune to tampering (though I, personally, would not be overly concerned with it getting cracked), a better option for seriously large amounts of money (say, $35,000), is probably a safe box at the cage, even if it costs a couple hundred bucks.
The biggest takeaway from the room theft problem may have actually been the disappointment that there are no security cameras in the hallways. Not that the perpetrators would have definitely been caught, but cameras would still help and would at least possibly discourage would-be thieves from attempting a heist.
And then there was the odd case of an attack in the Rio Pavilion parking lot. On Saturday, a woman going by the screen name “gnormsmama” posted on Two Plus Two that she came across a bloodied young man from an Eastern European country in the expansive lot on Friday night. She wrote, in part:
John had apparently been approached in the parking lot by two men that pulled out a gun and demanded his money. He refused and the next thing he knew, he woke up in a vehicle being robbed and beaten with the handle of a gun. John detailed that he fought back and kicked out the window. He then was tossed out of the vehicle and was stumbling back to the Pavillion [sic] when we found him.
The poster attempted to help treat his forehead wounds, but when security arrived a few minutes later, she was upset to find that a) the first security guard on the scene had no first aid supplies on hand, and b) once several security officers were there, they seemed to be more concerned with “talking louder and trying to assert their authority with John” than with helping him and getting him medical attention.
Later, however, VP of Corporate Communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment Seth Palansky e-mailed Todd Witteles, operator of PokerFraudAlert.com, telling him that “John” was not a totally innocent victim:
No one got robbed in the parking lot. Someone was assaulted and it was a result of them arranging to meet someone else in the back corner of the lot to purchase drugs and things went south from there. This was someone doing something illegal and putting themselves in harm’s way. We don’t like the fact someone was hurt in the parking lot, but it was not a robbery like has been erroneously reported and the circumstances obviously are quite different.
So, on the one hand, it is somewhat of a relief that John wasn’t a poker player who got jumped on the way to his car, but it also a still bit disturbing that something like that could happen. Concerns have been raised about proper lighting and security patrols in the parking lot, but perhaps more importantly, it should remind poker players to take their own precautions when going to their cars, especially at night. Try not to broadcast that you are cashing out a large sum of money before leaving, be aware of your surroundings, and try to park in a well-lit space, if possible. Also, don’t be embarrassed to have security escort you to your car. Regardless of one’s opinion of the effectiveness of Rio security, their job is to keep you safe, so take advantage of an escort option.