If I had to recommend a good pace to start for those new to the security industry, Casinos would be the first thing which comes to mind. Whether you are interested in finding a fun job, want a career working security, or are looking for a stepping stone to get into law enforcement or public safety, Casino Security will teach you the trade and skill-sets you need to pursue any of the above.
In 2015 I got my first real security job working as a Security Officer at Montbleu Resort, Casino and Spa. I had absolutely no relevant security experience prior to working at Montbleu, and only new that I wanted to eventually work in law enforcement, so I thought that I’d apply for a security job as it would help me build my resume. Montbleu was located on the Nevada side of the Nevada-California state-line in the Lake Tahoe.
In Nevada, the only requirement for working security in a casino is a matter of obtaining a Gaming Card. This is interesting, since in any other case one would be required to obtain a Guard Card, which requires licensing through Nevada’s Private Investigators Licensing Board, however, there is a loophole in Nevada law which authorizes casino establishments to hire their own in-house security without the state Guard Card requirement. And, getting a Gaming Card is as easy as getting fingerprinted and undergoing a background check, and paying a small fee to Nevada’s Gaming Commission.
Nevada Gaming is thorough in their background investigations of Gaming Card applicants, however, prior criminal offenses such as misdemeanors and felonies are often overlooked, although applicants may undergo additional review if such prior offenses are discovered on their background investigation, at which point the Gaming Commission could approve or disqualify an applicant solely based on the commissions discretion. In most cases, so long as applicants are honest on about their background, their Gaming Cards are usually approved without any hassle. If a Casino Security Officer position is an armed position, additional requirements and training do apply, in which case prior criminal history could disqualify an applicant, as certain criminal history bars persons from owning and/or possessing firearms, under both state and federal law.
Now, for the fun part. Casino Security is one of those jobs where you may have to be the “jack of all trades,” in other words, you may be required to wear many different hats, but not in a literal sense. First and foremost, Casino Security is a customer service job. Most of the time you will be interacting with the public, whether it be checking IDs, giving customers directions, or taking reports of customer complaints. Whatever it be, the job is all about customer service first, and everything else comes after. As my Director of Security Gary Armstrong would say; “You’ve heard of the Golden Rule, that is, treat others the way you want to be treated? Well, here at Montbleu we follow the Platinum Rule, that is, we treat our guests the way they want to be treated.” Which brings me to my next point, which is, always treat customers as guests, rather than customers. That is because guests are people we welcome into our lives, while customers come and go.
Most security work is “Observe and Report,” “Officer Presence,” and “Situational Awareness.” These are just the basic principles of doing any kind of security, and Casino Security is no exception. Every casino establishment may differ in how work is performed, but one thing to keep in mind is routine. There is usually a routine that is particular to every work establishment, as such is necessary to keeping a facility operational.
When my journey into the security world and casino nightlife first began, I was a real “Deputy Doofus,” somewhat chubby from drinking beers, and without any know how or security experience whatsoever. At that time, if it wasn’t for my Security Training Officer Colt Leasure, Sergeant Michael Griffin, Sergeant Brett Paulin, Supervisor Michael Martin, and Training Officer Michael Porter-Melton, I would not have had the success I had in my pursuit of work in public safety, law enforcement, and security. Oh, and Officer and Dispatcher Brian McDaniel who saved Montbleu from burning down that one time the room above dispatch caught on fire. So, to you guys I say thanks.
Now, making your routine rounds to ensure an establishment is in order will make up for a good portion of your work shift. As I remember the job, I would get to work, clock-in, and we would all go to briefing, where every Security Officer would receive a schedule. Schedules varied on a day to day basis, thus, officers were kept in rotation so that no one person was always stuck doing the same thing. Also, dispatch which would remind officers where they were supposed to be according to schedule, and call us via radio for whatever other assignments and calls which would arise in the spur of the moment.
Casino Security is like any other security job in that there is always a demand for Security Officers as the nature of the work can be just as boring as it can rough, thus, the turn-over rate is higher than with most other jobs, but especially in Casinos, where there is plenty of opportunity to make money in other departments, thus, people are constantly changing around. That’s just the nature of Casino jobs. And because one minute you might find yourself smiling and chatting with guests, and just like that, in a split second, you’re wrestling with hostile subjects in the nightclub until somebody ends up in a pair of handcuffs, the job does take a toll on ya’, which may lead some people to think that your somehow disgruntled or angry. To those I say, you just don’t understand what working security is like. Lol.
On a busy night, the dynamics of a situation can change real quick, thus, “Situational Awareness” is key. Now, every environment has its norm and baseline. Something that may be normal on a Friday night, may be out of sync on a Monday. You come to learn to read situations and people really well after sometime, especially on slow days when all you have to really do is “people watch.” What I loved most about Montbleu was that we trained at least once a week, if not more, and were cross-trained on dispatch and surveillance. We would even train with the local Sheriff’s Department on drug recognition and handcuffing techniques, and with the Fire Department on how to respond to medical situations.
The training we received really was amazing, as I had come to learn later on after working for different casinos and security companies, none of which had the kind of extensive training I had received while working at Montbleu.
Casino Security is responsible for overseeing a wide range of activities within a gaming establishment, including; public safety, lost and found, medical emergencies and first aid, guest complaints, undesirable behavior, trespassing, gaming law violations, and affecting arrests of unruly patrons for any violations enumerated within state law, and as guided by company policy and departmental procedure.
Casino Security Officers are not Cops, but do have the authority to make citizens arrests as permitted by state law, which according to the Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 171.126, allows for any citizen to arrest any other citizen, so long as;
1. the suspect committed a Nevada misdemeanor or a Nevada gross misdemeanor in the civilian’s presence,
2. or the suspect committed a Nevada felony, whether or not the civilian witnessed it
Most states allow for citizens to make citizens arrest of suspects in violation of law, and are fairly uniform across the board, with only slight variances, with the exception of a few states which limit the powers of citizens arrest, in part or entirely.
Generally, Security Officers can only make citizens arrests, and do not have the authority to detain suspects solely for investigative purposes. However, working in a gaming establishment gives gaming employees additional powers, as stated in NRS 171.1235, which says;
Gaming licensee may detain person suspected of having committed felony in gaming establishment.
Any gaming licensee or the licensee’s officers, employees or agents who have reasonable cause to believe that any person has committed a felony may detain such person in the establishment for the purpose of notifying a peace officer.
During my time as a Casino Security Officer, while working at Montbleu, and later Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe, I did affect a number of arrests on patrons who had committed either misdemeanor and/or felony offenses. The key to making arrests is good report writing, as writing good reports will minimize an arresting Officer’s chances of being subpoenaed to court. It was probably after being several months on the job that I stopped counting how many arrests I was making.
Montbleu was, and as I understand it, till this day still is the highest paying casino in the area for entry Security Officer job positions. One of the biggest deals at the time when I was working at Montbleu was that the security department gave Security Officers a raise from $11/hr to $12.38/hr, and switched over from 5/8’s to 4/10’s. Having three days off really made all the difference, as two days off just wasn’t enough to recover from the pain and agony Officers often had to endure.
Most Nevada Casino Security don’t carry weapons, with some being armed (mostly in Las Vegas), but for the most part are unarmed and at the most may carry pepper spray. Montbleu Security did not carry weapons of any sort, and were only equip with a duty belt which included a flashlight, handcuffs, belt keepers, radio holder, keys, and a pouch for latex gloves (for medical response). Some Officer’s would carry additional items, such as a UV black light for performing ID checks. Oh, and I can’t forget the bulletproof vests. Montbleu is the only casino I know of where Security Officers wore bulletproof vests, all thanks to Brett Paulin who started the trend. Now, bulletproof vests are something more common for armed Security Officers, but at Montbleu, there was no policy against it, so most guys would wear vests.
Club nights were my favorite. Now, this is where the action was and what made our job dangerous. I wouldn’t have ever’v guessed that Casino Security Officer’s could get to have so much fun, but we did. A busy night would mean calls. Lots of calls. And, would range from noise disturbances, to brawls and fistfights. Keep in mind, Montbleu also has a hotel tower, so although the party at the nightclub ends, that doesn’t mean the party really ends.
Now that I think back to those days, I am surprised that none of our crew ever got hurt in the process of doing our job. I’ve heard stories from Training Officers about how former Officers would get into brawls in the Opal Nightclub and got beat up, and even one Officer getting their leg snapped, but during my time at Montbleu, we ran a tight shift and played it safe as we had really great training.
I’ve had a good combined 3 years of security, public safety, and law enforcement work, starting out at Montbleu, and then Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe, to working as a Correctional Officer at a Maximum Security Prison with Nevada’s Department of Corrections. I later went to work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, and then for various other security companies to do Bank Protection, Mobile Patrol, Armored Truck Security, Reno’s City Hall, and Federal Protection for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When I reminisce about the good ol’ days working security, I always revert back to Montbleu, and remember my Security Supervisor Michael Martin always saying “Enjoy this now.” And now I know what he meant.
So, if you are looking for good security experience, give Casino Security a whirl, and if you do reside anywhere near the South Lake Tahoe area, then apply at Montbleu, though don’t expect it to be the Old Wild West that it was back in the days, as most of the guys from the old school have moved on, though I hear there’s a few good folks that remain and continue to carry on the Sheepdog tradition.