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The Nevada Independent

Gaming regulators fine Laughlin casino $500K, chastise operators for poor security

The Riverside Casino agreed to the large penalty after security officers used excessive force during two incidents in 2022.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz

The Nevada Gaming Commission approved a $500,000 fine against the Riverside Resort in Laughlin on Thursday that was spelled out in a stipulated settlement, but not before operators of the historic Colorado River property were chastised by commission members due to the severity of the charges.

The fine, one of the larger penalties the commission has handed down recently, settled a two-count complaint after several of the casino’s security officers used excessive force during two altercations at the property in 2022. One involved an unnamed patron who was trespassed from the casino in July, and the other involved an unnamed Riverside employee who was wrongly accused of smoking marijuana while on the job in August.

The altercations were not reported to the Nevada Gaming Control Board by Riverside officials, which violated state gaming regulations. The incidents resulted in criminal charges filed against the officers, who admitted to investigators for Riverside that the employee and customer were wrongly detained.

The gaming commission took 16 minutes to accept the settlement at its meeting Thursday in Las Vegas.

Commission member Ogonna Brown told Riverside executives that the company should have used better business judgment and reported the two detainments to the control board.

“When an employee is falsely accused and knocked out for 18 minutes, that seems pretty egregious and something that should voluntarily be disclosed,” Brown said.

The Riverside was founded by Don Laughlin, the namesake of the Southern Nevada casino town that he turned into a tourist destination. Laughlin died last year at age 92.

His grandson, Matt Laughlin, serves as Riverside’s chief operating officer and told the commission the casino’s security director was terminated after the incidents came to light. It was not disclosed in either the complaint or settlement if the security officers were fired or why the incidents were not reported to the control board. 

“We now have a new security director,” Laughlin said. “By bringing in outside professional security training, I believe that there's a complete mindset of how [and] what to look for when we’re hiring. We raised our wages significantly to get better quality security.” 

Senior Deputy Attorney General John Michela, who represented the control board in the settlement negotiations, said the criminal charges filed last year against the security officers were amended to battery and false imprisonment, which resulted in the charges being dismissed contingent upon the security officers staying out of trouble and completing impulse control classes. 

“Riverside has put into place significant measures to hopefully ensure that something like this does not happen again,” Michela said. 

Michela told the commission the fine amount was negotiated with Riverside and used the $300,000 fine Boyd Gaming paid in 2020 for a similar altercation at the Fremont Hotel Casino as a starting point.

Commissioner Brian Krolicki said he thought the $500,000 assessed on the Riverside was appropriate because “of the physicality of the incidents.”

Brown said she was “a little bit disturbed.”

“I get that you're talking about mandates and requirements, but I think business judgment should compel these types of incidents to be reported to the board,” Brown said.


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