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Las Vegas Nightclubs Suddenly find that Benign Neglect of their
 Customer's Behavior May Affects their Bottom Lines

By Jane Ann Morrison, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jul. 18, 2009--A cottage industry emerged after Planet Hollywood agreed to pay a whopping $750,000 fine last week, admitting it hadn't done enough to keep Prive nightclub on the straight and narrow.

One private investigator, Peter Maheu, started a new service called "Scandalous Conduct Alert for Nightclubs." Hire his company, QSI Specialists, which already offers a secret shopper program, and his staff will test your nightclub and topless pool for scandalous behavior.

SCAN will look for unsuitable methods of operation, unsuitable, at least, in the eyes of the Gaming Control Board, now cracking down on behavior that brings Nevada gaming into disrepute, even if the nightclubs are leased and operated by others.

Meanwhile, the International Gaming Institute at UNLV is offering a one-day seminar July 27 on "Security for Bars and Nightclubs." Private investigators Steven Baker and Alan Zajic, who between them have 53 years of experience in security, will teach that class.

Gaming Control Board member Randall Sayre said he's also planning to offer a seminar to licensees on the day-to-day operations and potential pitfalls at the nightclubs and even other areas, such as race and sports books and private gaming salons. Soon, he'll be inviting the gaming industry to participate in a down-to-earth presentation about myriad activities concerning the control board. I'm sure it will be an invitation hard to decline -- if you have a gaming license.

While some gaming licensees privately object to being held responsible for bad behavior in clubs they don't own or manage, the gaming regulators hold big hammers over their heads. The law says you can endanger your gaming license if your actions bring disrepute on the state. (That may seem like an oxymoron since our marketing program encourages disreputable behavior, but the law's the law.)

Baker and Zajic will explain how to comply with the concerns first detailed in Sayre's letter last April, discussing problems with dumping drunken and high nightclubbers, abandoning them, serving minors, drug abuse, fights, sex acts in public, date rape, extortion and prostitution. And that's not the entire list of his concerns.

Dumping is a major issue. Drai's was known to dump customers in the alleyway outside the nightclub. Other clubs push barely conscious customers into the casino hoping they take care of themselves, shoving the responsibility on hotel security. I'm told the humane thing to do is to put them in a cab -- presuming they know where they're staying. And sometimes, they're so drunk or high they can't tell a cabbie which hotel to go to.

Dumping them somewhere where they could be assaulted or robbed is not right, so while cabbies don't like becoming baby sitters, that may be the safest answer in some cases.

With liquor going for $400 to $600 a bottle for table service, the clubs are wildly profitable.

"Some clubs take their money, but don't take any responsibility," Zajic said.

Baker and Zajic know this world well and said if they had a 21-year-old daughter, they'd be afraid for her if she said she was going clubbing in Las Vegas. If she were going, Zajic would prefer she "go as a group and stay as a group."

The last thing they'd want their daughters to do is go alone, because there are predators looking for single women to accost. These security experts have seen too many vulnerable women passed out in booths and restrooms. Meanwhile, date rape drugs are a problem here, as well as every club in the country, they said.

In dram shop states, where the owner is responsible if a drunk drives and injures someone, a security guard is posted at the exits to make sure someone is OK to drive. But Nevada is one of eight states where bar owners and alcohol servers can't be sued if a drunk harms someone.

One suggestion Baker and Zajic will make at their seminar is vile. If security officials really want to check out what's happening, after the club closes, sweep out all the trash, put on rubber gloves and go through the trash. It will provide a vivid look at what's happening. Evidence of drugs. Underwear. Condoms. The trash tells a story of illegal activity and reveals problems. Yes, trash talks.

So does a $750,000 fine.

Jane Ann Morrison's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison/.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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