Stories of drugged, raped, robbed visitors too common


A student from California celebrated a friend's birthday at a Las Vegas nightclub recently. She woke up the next day showing signs she'd been drugged and raped.

Her mother is not the first concerned parent to contact me about being drugged in Las Vegas. A Washington state man told me his 26-year-old son here for a wedding was drugged at a Strip hotel bar and his cash and credit cards stolen.

"We want to pursue this so it doesn't happen to someone else," the student's mom told me last week in a heartbreaking conversation I've heard repeatedly.

The Rape Crisis Center staff hears stories like this all the time.

When asked how to prevent drugging and raping, they were succinct: Get your own cocktails. Follow your instincts. Know your surroundings. Know your limit; alcohol lowers inhibitions. Come together, leave together; use a buddy system with friends.

But if you have been sexually assaulted, the center has another set of suggestions:

Within 72 hours, go to the University Medical Center emergency room entrance at 1800 W. Charleston Blvd. Notify the front desk you are there for a sexual assault exam. Do not shower, bathe or change clothing. If you remove clothing, place it in a paper receptacle. Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum. Do not use the bathroom. Do not douche. Preserve any and all evidence of the crime.

Numbers to save: The 24-hour Rape Crisis Center Hotline at 702-366-1640 or 800-553-7273 and the Las Vegas Metro Police Sexual Assault Unit at 702-828-3421. (Report it immediately to Las Vegas police, because that's the right jurisdiction.)

I have one more suggestion.

Call the Gaming Control Board's Enforcement Division, and tell them where it happened. There is nothing they can do to help the victim, but it might help gaming regulators - who are troubled by ongoing problems at Las Vegas Strip clubs and pools - identify where repeat problems occur.

"It never hurts to make us aware," Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said.

The board hears from Las Vegas police if crime reports reveal a pattern of drugging, rapes or robberies, or if lawsuits are filed against resorts for failing to protect their customers. But since many rapes go unreported and few lawsuits are viable, he was open to my suggestion that people call and tell the enforcement division if they believe they were drugged and assaulted at a property owned by a licensed gaming company.

Gaming regulators have the ability to penalize properties that look the other way when customers are raped, robbed, dumped into cabs in an alcoholic stupor and dumped in a hallway where prostitution is rampant and where employees are selling drugs to customers.

After industrywide warning letters in 2006 and again in 2009, gaming regulators fined two resorts. One complaint against Planet Hollywood Resort in 2009 was settled with a $500,000 fine. The second against the Hard Rock Hotel in 2010 settled with a $650,000 fine. One against the Luxor settled before a complaint was filed.

No complaints involving resort clubs or pools have been filed since 2010. But that's about to change.

Lipparelli said two ongoing joint investigations with Las Vegas police are focusing primarily on drug sales by employees and one is close to becoming public.

He has met with hotel officials and told them: "We're not fun killers; we're not telling you you have to operate a church. But when employees are distributing drugs, that's over the edge. There has to be a sense of responsibility. ... They're making lots of money, but no one's looking out for patrons."

Nevada's Tourism Commission is seeking a new slogan to attract visitors. "Welcome to Vegas Where With Luck Maybe You Won't Get Drugged, Raped or Robbed" is not in the running.

Yet it has the ring of truth.

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