I guess for video lottery operators, the only thing worse than getting robbed is getting regulated.
The South Dakota Lottery Commission met last Thursday to discuss, among other things, a proposed study of security at video lottery establishments and validation centers. The commission requested proposals for the security study from contractors this spring; Lottery officials appear to have tapped New Jersey-based Gaming Laboratories International to conduct an $80,000 study of security at 50 out of our 1,331 video lottery establishments. There were 19 heists at video lottery establishments in 2015; quick Googling finds robberies this year at Uncle Sam’s Casino in Rapid City, Crown Casino in Sioux Falls, Happy Jacks in Sioux Falls, Connexions II in Sioux Falls, Fireside in Sioux Falls, and Deuces in Sioux Falls.
But hold your horses, said the Lottery Commission Thursday. Even though our lottery security director Robyn Seibel says this study would be “ground-breaking,” chairman and impending legislator Chuck Turbiville said he thinks a study would be a waste of time and money:
Turbiville said he was at the Rapid City police meeting about the robberies there. He said he isn’t sure what the study would deter.
“I personally think a lot of these robberies are the result of drug addiction,” Turbiville said.
He explained his hesitancy. “Here again, does one size fit all?” he said. “I don’t know what to expect.”
Turbiville asked Lingle and deputy director Clark Hepper if the staff could bring general recommendations instead [Bob Mercer, “Despite Rash of Casino Robberies, State Hesitant to Order Security Study for Video Lottery Spots,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.08.08].
Maybe Mercer underquotes Turbiville, but I get the impression the lottery chairman doesn’t quite grasp the topic. Maybe lots of casino robbers are on drugs. Maybe thieves will always be with us. Studying security and implementing safety measures may not stop idiots from trying to knock over a casino, but those measures could keep casino money and casino workers safer. And maybe Turbiville isn’t thinking about the words coming out of his mouth, but a detailed field study of 50 different video lottery establishments is less likely to produce one-size-fits-all recommendations than lottery staff offering “general recommendations”… which by definition means, “not tailored to specific situations.”
Also balking at figuring out how we might make video lottery casinos safer, Commissioner Bob Hartford sounds the anti-regulatory alarm:
Hartford said he agreed with some of Turbiville’s concerns. He recalled meeting with legislators in some districts last winter and concluded some business people might stop offering video lottery if there are too many regulations.
“There are huge differences between a Crown Casino in Sioux Falls and the gas station in Blunt,” Hartford said. He questioned how the 50-establishment sample would be chosen. “What happens in Ipswich and Blunt? That’s my concern,” Hartford said [Mercer, 2016.08.08].
An interesting point about regulation lies in Hartford’s comment. Yes, regulations cost businesses money. Certain regulations can be so costly that they make it impossible for some businesses to turn a profit. But if a business cannot afford to take certain basic measures to protect its employees and its money (part of which is public money), should that business be involved in that activity at all?
But Hartford’s concern seems overwrought. According to Mercer, Gaming Laboratories International has consulted for South Dakota Lottery since it began in the 1980s. GLI likely understands the big-town/small-town differences of video lottery establishments and knows its study should pay attention to those differences. Hartford just sounds like he’s been too busy imbibing anti-regulation slogans from the GOP and not paying attention to the security needs of the gambling establishments he oversees.
This isn’t the first time Hartford has show less concern than one might expect about the Lottery’s money draining away insecurely. He was among the commissioners who was willing to throw more money toward the state’s favored ad agency, Lawrence & Schiller, without looking at the new advertising contract.
Lottery commissioners will discuss the security study again at their September meeting.