Human Trafficking in the Gaming World

Why victims and perpetrators are a must-add for your security plan

Less than a decade ago, I would have said the gaming industry didn’t have to worry about human trafficking occurring at casino properties. And if it did, it was only rarely. After all, casinos have security teams and extensive surveillance systems in place at all times, and even if traffickers do get into the property to ply their trade, they can, more than likely, be identified. So, a smart trafficker would stay out of casinos and go only to softer targets – or so I thought.

Human trafficking, as described by the Department of Homeland Security, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. As David Vialpando, CPP, stated in his March 2022 article for ASIS International, Online Exclusives “Human trafficking, quite simply, is the theft of an individual’s freedom for profit.” Vialpando also writes that it is estimated that there are over 40 million people worldwide who are victims, and that sex trafficking is the fastest growing business of organized crimes.

But Why Casinos?

I think the simple answer is that it easy to go unnoticed in a crowded casino with a busy hotel when you are performing illicit activities such as drug sales or prostitution that may go unreported by those taking advantage of such services. Security won’t be notified unless something goes wrong during these transactions such as an overdosed individual requiring medical attention or a trick roll of a person who paid for sex but was instead beaten and/or robbed. Of course, by the time security is notified, the perpetrators are long gone. Part of the trouble for us all is that these types of crime are fairly common on our properties, and we’ve grown use to them in today’s world. Further, we hadn’t before, but are beginning to realize that a lot of this activity can be attributed to human trafficking.

I think it is time that we, the gaming industry, join the fight against human trafficking.

I know that some have, and that there are casino properties that began the battle long ago and are providing training and communication protocols to recognize and address human trafficking. It is time each casino property does the same. Like meth, human trafficking now touches every casino, in every city, in every state, commercial and Tribal.

I am including the link to Mr. Vialpandos’ article in which he lists common indicators of human sex trafficking in a casino hotel. I will mention a few because I’m sure that security, surveillance, and hotel personnel will recognize these immediately:

  • Paying for the room with cash or a prepaid card
  • Requesting a certain room overlooking a parking lot or next to a stairway far from the main entrance
  • Frequent requests for new linens and/or towels.
  • Denial of hospitality service (“do not disturb” or “room occupied” signs)
  • Presence of drugs in the room

I know from my own experience that we all see these indicators on a frequent basis.

Now that we are aware of the issue what can we do?

For my security and surveillance professionals, I can suggest we start with paying much more attention to hotels on our property and who is making use of them. Most of the trafficking activity will be focused in and around the hotel for obvious reasons. We know that the hotel is usually a low priority for the simple reason that over the years it is not where the worst things have occurred. We also know that this has changed. The hotel can now be where bad things happen more and more often. We must focus our resources on the hotel as we do in the casino. The individuals and activity in our hotels are an active threat to guests, employees, and reputation.

Whichever department is assigned to cover their hotel, whether it is security or surveillance, they should perform, where feasible:

  • Officer presence at hotel entrances/elevators.
  • Consistent and regular patrols of each level and tower of the hotel, preferably both a physical and video patrol.
  • Detection of common indicators of human trafficking with appropriate reasons, to include notification to law enforcement of criminal or undesired activity, of and removal of individuals or groups from the hotel.
  • Implementing a “Do Not Rest” list of individuals or groups involved with criminal or undesirable activity. Such a list or database can be used for those that have been observed by security or surveillance exhibiting trafficking behavior to prevent then or their associates from using the hotel as a base for their operations.

I would also suggest that you review an article by a friend of mine, Darrell Clifton, CPP, CSP, Sex Trafficking – It’s Not Just a Campaign[1] His article tells the true story of a teenager who becomes a victim of sex trafficking and tragically does not survive. There are no more words to be said, when you read it, you know you’ve seen it.

Human trafficking is here and growing in our casinos and we must add those perpetrators and victims to our security plans as a high priority threat that must be addressed.

Derk Boss is a Raving Partner and also Director of Surveillance for Angel of the Winds Casino Resort.