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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Binion's Probe Highlights Responsible Gaming Issue

14 May 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which prides itself for its work on problem gambling issues, hasn't yet offered comprehensive responsible gaming training to some of the 930 employees at its Binion's Horseshoe property in downtown Las Vegas.

The lack of training was cited Thursday in discussions about an alleged incident under investigation by the state Gaming Control Board.

Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said Thursday that under normal circumstances, company employees are given responsible gaming training before they go to work on the casino floor.

"The problem is that this is one of the busiest times of the year for us with the World Series of Poker under way," Thompson said.

He said employees who were hired back to work after the Horseshoe had been shut down for 2 1/2 months were brought on board quickly when the property reopened April 1 and employees were given basic training in problem gambling issues.

He said the amount of training Harrah's employees receive varies by position, but that most workers receive about two hours of instruction. Some of the Binion's employees have not yet received that full two hours of training.

Thompson cited that lack of training in an e-mail response to a Las Vegas man who said Horseshoe employees allowed a blackjack player to play while drunk.

Control Board chief enforcement officer Keith Copher confirmed that the board is investigating an incident alleged to have occurred Tuesday night at a blackjack table at the Horseshoe.

Enforcement officials routinely do not comment on details of investigations in progress. But according to a witness who said he was at the Horseshoe and called the Control Board with the complaint, a man who had been drinking at the casino since at least 5:30 p.m. and was visibly drunk between 8 and 9:30 p.m., was allowed to continue to play.

Al Rogers, a Las Vegas man who witnessed the incident, made the phone call to the Control Board and also e-mailed an account to Harrah's officials.

"He was loud and unpleasant, sometimes throwing his cards, sometimes walking away from the table mid-hand," Rogers said in an e-mail to Harrah's. "Eventually, his antics caused pit personnel to instruct security guards to stand by the table to keep bystanders back. The other players who were at the table left, and the drunk was playing alone at a de facto private table. Amazingly, the cocktail waitress kept bringing him alcohol."

Rogers said at one point, the man was too drunk to pick up his cards.

"The assistant casino manager came over, picked up the cards and played the patron's hand for him," Rogers said. "When a concerned citizen asked the cocktail waitress why they were still serving him alcohol, she replied that he was a known regular, was staying in the hotel and they did not care how drunk he got because he doesn't get overly belligerent regardless of how much he lost, and he tipped well."

Thompson, who replied to Rogers' e-mail, said the company is conducting its own investigation.

"We are investigating the allegations made by Al Rogers and to determine if they indeed occurred as he described them," Thompson said. "However, surveillance tape does not appear to support the accusations he made. Nevertheless, we are continuing to investigate."