Las Vegas officials look to safeguard future of Las Vegas’ appeal

Las Vegas officials look to safeguard future of Las Vegas’ appeal

October 10, 2017 3:00 AM

Give free rein to your inner child in Las Vegas. Let her rip and see what happens because what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.

These familiar marketing lines fall kind of flat because of what happened across the Strip from Mandalay Bay as Stephen Paddock, 64, a familiar face at Mandalay with a fondness for video poker, shot and killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500 before taking his own life with one of the guns in his 32nd floor suite.

But why?

Several days after the massacre in a packed outdoor concert area opposite Mandalay and the neighboring Luxor there was no clear evidence about his motive. That may have changed by now as information continues to roll in and the puzzled authorities ask for input from anyone who may have crossed Paddock’s path.

As an experienced reporter I was curious and put in calls to several friends with years of experience in the casino business. The questions drew a sigh from one who said, “I wish you would not write too much about this. We don’t want to make people afraid to come visit Las Vegas.” Others expressed a similar view, but another chuckled, “A train wreck always holds your attention. Oh you shake your head and say it’s terrible, and it is, but you think of yourself as bullet proof.”

Las Vegas has been on one heckuva roller coaster ride for years. There have been good years, but there has also been 9/11 and the MGM fire of 1980; but visitor numbers increase and imagineers have put big money into successful attractions that draw business.

Marketers use new thinking and technology, encouraging them to let their “inner child” run free, a line that rings with more innocence than Paddock had in mind. And now here we are in uncharted territory, as one crisis communicator said.

There was that Washington conservative, not the man you’d think of as a gambler who was known to enjoy video poker when he was in Las Vegas. There was the Texas-based dealer in old books who dressed himself in the look of a Texas cowboy. Rock solid, you would imagine, but friends say he had a fondness for creative ways to commit suicide. He was found dead of a bullet wound several years ago.

And how about “the banker,” a man who pressed the limits at a local dice game. The stories about his exploits suggest he reveled in these big thrills. He killed himself in a Strip hotel room because of a love affair that had taken a wrong turn.

Yes, the Las Vegas “party,” that 24/7 blend of moments that can stir thinking and cause some people to give free rein to their dark side may have had something to do with the circumstances that carried Paddock to his hotel room with nearly 20 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

So why did he do it? Authorities puzzled their way through the issue without coming to a satisfying answer. There was nothing except a mounting pile of evidence that he had led a secret life.

“There’s a lot more to this than him not liking country music,” said a casino employee who could not reach his graveyard shift that night because police had “locked down” Mandalay after they got the first reports of shots being fired shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday.

Pondering Paddock’s curious motive another cynical but curious gambler said, “I’ll tell you this, I doubt he was coming off a big winning streak.”

Possible fallout from this continuing investigation involves Stephen Paddock’s background and the source of the wealth that enabled him to play the role of a wealthy gambler with an appetite for high limits. Several years ago the head of the federal government’s financial crimes division said the Feds would expect casinos to use their high tech tools – the same ones utilized to determine a player’s eligibility for credit and comps – to determine if the money flowed from “suspicious activity” or a legitimate deal of some kind.

Which category did Paddock fall into?

That’s just one of several questions in need of answers. Some of those answers may never be known, but federal and local officials are looking. The answers are part of safeguarding the future of Las Vegas’ appeal that attracts more than 40 million people a year.