Vegas newspaper finds trouble tracking casino response plans

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada security officials had trouble tracking resort emergency response plans, months after the Legislature tightened requirements for 91 casinos statewide to update and maintain playbooks for incidents including active shooters and natural disasters, a newspaper reported.

The Nevada Division of Emergency Management listed 24 resorts as failing to meet a Nov. 1 deadline to submit updated plans for dealing with fires, acts of terrorism, cyberattacks and communicable disease outbreaks, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation.

Within weeks, with little explanation and following Review-Journal inquiries, the list dropped to three properties reported to be out of compliance, the newspaper said.

Nevada Public Safety Director George Togliatti, whose agency oversees the emergency management division, said he hoped any failures to meet the deadline were the result of an oversight on the resorts' part.

“It’s not a list you want to be on,” Togliatti said. “You want the public to understand the intent of this law is to prepare for an emergency or worst-case scenario.”

Togliatti’s agency, as mandated by a new state law, referred the list of 24 properties to the Nevada Gaming Control Board on Nov. 14 for possible disciplinary action. The Review-Journal obtained the list in response to a public records request.

Gaming Control Board officials refused to discuss enforcement efforts.

The law makes plans confidential and unavailable to the public. They should be filed annually by Nov. 1 and include maps and descriptions of buildings and grounds, and potentially sensitive information about evacuation routes. They're expected to show the location of emergency equipment and command posts, describe public health or safety hazards, and provide telephone numbers of emergency response coordinators.

“When a major incident happens, it’s no time to start looking for the plans,” said former Assemblyman John Oceguera, a retired North Las Vegas assistant fire chief who sponsored an original 2003 oversight law. “Having those plans available to first responders is critical.”

No Las Vegas Strip properties on the list are owned by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., the state’s two largest casino companies.

That includes the Mandalay Bay, the MGM Resorts-owned hotel where a shooter in October 2017 rained gunfire with assault-style rifles from the 32nd floor into an outdoor music festival crowd, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds before killing himself.

The Review-Journal reported in 2017 the state Emergency Management Division had not reviewed security plans at Mandalay Bay and most other Las Vegas Strip casinos for nearly five years, and that no enforcement measures were written into Oceguera's 2003 law. It found no evidence that oversight lapses led to the Mandalay Bay attack.

In January 2018, then-Gov. Brian Sandoval voiced concerns about emergency response plans and then-state emergency management chief Caleb Cage formed a task force to address the issue.

Cage said he’s now confident the state has the ability to ensure resorts follow the law.

“The good news is that there are stricter compliance measures in place right now than there were before,” he said. “There are ways that the state can remedy this going forward, and I suspect that it will.”

Kim Yoko Smith, emergency management division spokeswoman, refused to explain why the original list of 24 was reduced to three or whether the casinos removed from the list met the Nov. 1 deadline.

Gambling regulators “reached out to the resorts that were not in compliance, and most have sent in their emergency response plans,” Smith told the Review-Journal. “We are actively working with the others to receive theirs.”

Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan declined to comment on action against non-compliant casinos. Michael Lawton, chief analyst and spokesman for the board, declined to answer questions.

A Dec. 9 letter from James Taylor, board enforcement chief, to a casino the Review-Journal did not identify warned that emergency plan noncompliance could lead to license suspension or revocation, the Review-Journal said.

Taylor called it imperative that resorts comply with the new law, and set a Dec. 31 deadline for latest plans to the emergency management division.