VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: It’s Illegal to Take Photos in a Casino

Posted on: December 2, 2022, 09:05h. 

Last updated on: December 2, 2022, 09:49h.

Those signs depicting a camera with a red slash through it weren’t placed inside casinos by police. Taking a photo in a casino isn’t an activity you’ll ever face a judge for engaging in, and it’s never been against the law. It’s merely a self-imposed policy that casinos try and stop you from violating. Similar legal but frowned-upon policies include counting cards at blackjack, not wearing a shirt, or being too intoxicated.

Casino selfie
Taking a photo inside a casino was never an illegal act, despite what Las Vegas casinos often encouraged visitors to believe. Now, some casinos actually encourage selfies. (Image: feelingvegas.com)

Unlike the other myths this series has explored, casinos are the ones perpetuating this one. They want guests to have second thoughts about taking photos to protect the privacy of their other guests. Not everyone patronizes a casino wanting everyone else in their lives knowing about it. That guest unwittingly caught playing craps in the background of your Instagram post may be a public official or an undercover cop. And that woman gambling next to him may be his mistress or a prostitute.

As far as your smartphone camera goes, casinos would rather you just keep it in your pants.

No photos sign
A typical “no photo” sign is displayed at the Ellis Island casino. (Image: Scott Roeben)

Myth Understanding

According to former Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter A.D. Hopkins, this myth traces back to the early days of Las Vegas, when people didn’t want the folks back home seeing them in an environment associated with sin.

“I would often be told we could not take photos in a casino because it was illegal,” said Hopkins, who first began reporting on Las Vegas casinos in the 1970s. “Then I did a story on (future South Point owner) Mike Gaughan. He said, ‘That’s just bull****!’ He not only allowed me to take his picture in his casino, but insisted that I do. He figured that some security chiefs decided it was easier to tell newspaper photographers, untruthfully, that it was illegal than it was to make sure they had the consent of everyone in the picture.”

Dueling Priorities

The standard “no photography” casino policy is running headlong into a changing world. Just about every casino guest now has a high-definition camera in their pocket. People in almost every age group are now accustomed to commemorating any excitement in their lives with live social media posts – posts that have become an undeniably valuable source of advertising for the casinos.

People want to capture their experiences to share them,” said Casino.org’s own Scott Roeben, blogger for “Vital Vegas.” “Rigid rules alienate customers and create unnecessary tension between guests and staff. Casinos already face serious challenges, as younger players aren’t thrilled with spending money to sit and push a button on a slot machine. They create another barrier with old-fashioned and intrusive policies around photography.”

Incidentally, no one has been confronted for casino photography in modern Las Vegas more than Roeben. (His best guess is “dozens of times.”) He’s been booted from the Palace Station for photographing a bingo game, and from the Sahara just for carrying a digital camera. He was even back-roomed once, a la the movie Casino, for photographing a restaurant sign inside Jerry’s Nugget.

“I’ve also been commanded to delete photos on numerous occasions,” Roeben said. “I often remind visitors they do not have to follow this directive. No one can force you to delete photos or video. You may not be welcome at the casino anymore, but it’s your decision to comply or not.”

Four Queens sign allowing photos
An encouraging sign hangs in the Four Queens casino on Fremont Street. (Image: Casino.org)

The Bigger Picture

Because there’s nothing casinos can do to stop selfie-taking, most are slowly relaxing, or seriously rewriting, their photo bans. Photo tolerance varies by casino. Caesars Palace and the Sahara, for example, have always tended toward the less tolerant end of the spectrum. The Strat, on the other hand, actively encourages selfies, placing their social-media hashtags on their baccarat, blackjack, and craps tables. Four Queens and Rampart casinos also encourage selfies.

In the middle are casinos such as Park MGM, which dedicate specific zones on the floor – away from live tables and slots – for selfie-taking.

What most casinos try to implement these days is a nuanced policy that considers the type of photographs being taken before guests are asked to refrain. Some types are more permissible than others. You still will frequently see a “no photos” sign, but it’s primarily there to justify action against the less permissible types.

What’s Allowed and What’s Not

You’re good taking one or two quick selfies just about anywhere on a casino floor these days. Most tourists do anyway. But photograph an active-play table – even in the background of your selfie – and you’re taking more of a chance. In addition to potentially violating guest privacy, the casino may be concerned that your photo is part of a cheating scam.

If you want to gauge the speed of a casino’s security response, then photograph one of its cashier’s cages. You may not even get a warning before being escorted out. There’s almost no justifiable reason a casino can see for snapping such a photo other than plotting a future robbery, such as the ones committed at Resort’s World and Gold Coast just last month.

Video Verboten

Because casinos consider moving images more disruptive to their other guests than still ones, videography, live streaming, and video conferencing are almost universally off-limits. Casinos break this rule only for social media influencers whose vlogs and slot channels are extremely popular. But even they must clear their live streaming ahead of time. Nobody is allowed to just randomly start FaceTiming in a casino.

“Casinos are grappling with dueling priorities,” Roeben said. “They want the business that influencers can drive, but also don’t want to disrupt the experience of their best players – often in high-limit slot rooms. Recently, casinos friendly to influencers have reconsidered their policies, so the story is still unfolding. But it’s indicative of some of the growing pains related to technology and casinos.”

Look for “Vegas Myths Busted” every Friday on Casino.org. Click here to read previously busted Vegas myths. Got a suggestion for a Vegas myth that needs busting? Email corey@casino.org.