Macau Casinos Adequately Prepared for Potential Terrorist Attack?

Posted on: June 25, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: June 25, 2018, 12:07h.

Macau gaming regulators have determined that the enclave’s casinos are properly prepared to combat against an attack or act of terrorism.

Macau casinos terrorism attack
Macau officials allowed the media to watch a simulated casino attack in January. (Image: Macau news Agency/

The Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, stylized as the DICJ, tells GGRAsia that no further simulation drills are planned.

Earlier this year, the DICJ, in conjunction nine government departments including the Judiciary Police, held a simulated attack at Galaxy Macau. The casino floor was closed to the public between 1 am and 5 am, where a simulated attack that involved injuries, the suspicion of explosives, and criminals attacking innocent bystanders was carried out.

Law enforcement experts and the DICJ apparently approved of the response. The simulated event was the first testing of the “Major Incidents Emergency Communication Mechanism,” a network that allows first responders and police to share information.

“The DICJ has no plan to conduct another casino emergency drill in the coming few months with scale similar to the one that took place in Galaxy Macau,” the DICJ explained. “The DICJ will continue paying close attention to the security of the casinos and should there be any need for another joint simulation drill.”

Casinos were targeted in 2017 in both Las Vegas and Manila, Philippines. But Macau, the world’s richest gambling hub, has so far been spared of a major attack.

Response to Manila

A year ago this month, a lone gunman entered Resorts World Manila and began setting fire to the casino floor. The burning casino produced toxic smoke that caused the deaths of 36 people, most of whom were trapped on the second floor.

The assailant later committed suicide. Philippine National Police say he was financially motivated after falling into debt due to excessive gambling and the loss of his job.

The June attack at Resorts World put Las Vegas and Macau on high alert. Though the incident wasn’t linked to a terrorist organization, a 2016 Islamic State propaganda video confirmed by the US State Department to be authentic highlighted the Las Vegas Strip as a potential target.

A recent report assessing terror risks in Asian countries found that Macau casinos “remain vulnerable … despite recent efforts to improve readiness.” However, the study concluded that the overall threat for the enclave is low.

Las Vegas Readiness

Following an August attack in Barcelona that involved a van driving down a pedestrian walkway that killed 13, Las Vegas officials fast-tracked the installation of bollards (embedded steel posts) along the Strip.

The city has also long been concerned with the threat of a lone wolf or active shooter, but few could have envisioned the October 1 massacre that left 58 victims dead. Regardless, former FBI Academy and US Marshal Service instructor Larry Barton said Metro Police’s response on that horrific night left “law enforcement all over the world baffled.”

Barton said other than New York and Los Angeles, no city should have been more prepared than Las Vegas for such an event. “Mistakes were made,” the emergency response expert concluded.

It’s been nearly nine months since the Las Vegas shooting, and there’s still no word on what motivated gunman Stephen Paddock to load an arsenal of weapons into his Mandalay Bay suite. There’s also been little update as to how law enforcement might better respond to a similar attack in the future.

Many casinos have changed their hotel “do not disturb” policies to allow routine inspection of guestrooms.