Sex, drugs and clubs

Southern Nevada’s casinos and their nightclubs have profited greatly from the anything-goes image that drives the Strip party scene. Last week, the Gaming Control Board issued a firm reminder that if employees help push the revelry into illegal behavior, properties will pay dearly.

The parent company of the Palms agreed to pay a $1 million fine and almost $80,000 worth of investigative costs to settle a complaint that alleged the property’s clubs sold drugs and facilitated prostitution. Gaming Control Board agents and Las Vegas police worked undercover over a few months at the Rain, Moon and ghostbar clubs and, according to the complaint, found employees all too happy to deliver cocaine, Ecstasy, Percocet and prostitutes to customers who could afford them.

The Nevada Gaming Commission must approve the settlement to resolve the complaint. The commission retains the right to increase the penalty.

It’s worth noting that the Palms acquired the clubs from Nine Group in the fall – after the agents completed their undercover work. “Nonetheless, Palms as a Nevada gaming licensee accepts full responsibility for all activities taking place on its property,” the company said in a Friday statement. The hotel says it has disbanded the clubs’ separate Nine Group security staff and mandated that all Nine Group employees still working in the clubs submit to drug tests.

It’s not the first time a Las Vegas casino has been fined over drug sales and prostitution, and it won’t be the last. It’s folly to think properties can stop customers from engaging in illicit sex and drug use when there’s no shortage of supply or demand for them. Prohibition didn’t stop alcohol use and gambling, and it won’t stop prostitution or drugs, either.

But when the dealers and pimps are hotel employees, it crosses a line that threatens the reputation of the entire industry. Nevada worked hard for decades to rid its casinos of criminals and build its brand as an above-board, well-regulated destination for safe, lawful fun. Once the criminal element takes root within a hotel’s workforce, it inevitably spreads until it victimizes visitors – the economy’s life blood.

Las Vegas police were expected to make multiple arrests this week in connection with the complaint. Good.

With thousands of jobs and multibillion-dollar investments riding on gaming licenses, the valley’s hotels can’t afford to indulge their guests’ every desire – or a Gaming Control Board fine could be the least of their worries.

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