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Hazardous Occupation: Gaming Writer

Hazardous Occupation: Gaming Writer

Some of you out there in the casino industry may think I have a pretty easy job. I mean, I go to press conferences, go to new casino openings, play casino games, drink in casino bars, and stay in casino hotel rooms.

OK, so I’m not shoveling pig manure. But it’s not all fun and games, I’ll tell you. As soon as I start to think of all that’s great about this job, someone reminds me that I have to write, and then edit, and then edit, and then write some more. And then edit some more.

That doesn’t even take into consideration the safety hazards I face every day in the performance of my duties. Once, I dropped my notebook on the floor at a press conference, and I had to bend all the way over to pick it up. I could have been killed!

Still, a lot of people have it harder than me in this industry. Take the main subject of this issue, security and surveillance. Just a glance at news items coming over the wire about casinos convinces me that I don’t want to do casino security. (That’s right, wise guy. I have a “news wire” right here in my office. It clicks away just like on those old-time news programs. When there’s no news, I use the wire to hang my laundry.)

Casino security jobs would be hard enough if you had to face desperate criminals all the time. But the deal-breaker for me would be having to face normal people, with alcohol mixed in.

For instance: Up at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut the other day, a security guard was called when a guy got mad and head-butted a woman to the ground. When the guard tried to detain him, he head-butted the guard. When a detective went to arrest him, he tried to head-butt the cop.

By the way, that’s always my first instinct when a cop pulls me over for speeding. “Head-butt him.” It works every time.

Either that, or hit him in the face with a bottle.

That’s what happened to a security guard at New York’s Turning Stone casino at about 2 in the morning on New Year’s Day. A guy drinking in the casino’s Lava Club lounge hauled off and slugged a guard with a bottle, and when other guards joined in to help, a fracas broke out. (Or was it a donnybrook?) Four men were arrested in a drunk-on-guard smackdown.

I wonder if they allowed wagering on the fight. Next time, they should. It would make a great promotion: “Four drunks. Four guards. This time, it’s personal!”

I’ve heard other security-guard stories that don’t make the news, from guys I know who work in casinos. There was the one story where a bunch of guards had to surround some lady who was writhing on the ground making cat noises. (Too much catnip, I suppose.) They eventually got all scratched up as they tried to de-claw her.

Then, there was the story where security guards had to restrain a frantic woman who freaked out after a dead bird dropped into her lap while she was playing. It dropped through the rafters of an older racino that had just been converted from a grandstand.

When I heard that one, I thought it was hilarious. Remarkably, she didn’t see the humor in the situation. (Repeated resuscitation attempts failed to save the bird.)

And finally, if you’re a security guard, you’re always the first one called when someone dies. Just a couple of weeks ago, a casino near where I live had a guy die on the toilet, right after he hit a jackpot. (Bummer, huh?) A couple of years earlier, a guy croaked right at his slot machine in the same casino. Who you gonna call? That’s right, casino security.

Granted, casino security can be quite an interesting profession, and it also involves sophisticated surveillance, employed to nab teams of slot cheats or internal casino thieves, or to unravel complicated scams and high-level casino crime.

But more often than not, it’s the head-butting drunk, or the rowdy cat-woman, or the dead guy. No thanks. I’ll stick to the dangerous world of casino trade journalism, and the hazards of press conferences and casino buffets and-maybe the most dangerous of all-round-table discussions.

Hey, for a good story, I’ll even risk that.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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