Long before casinos were a reality in Ohio, whenever the idea came up to make them legal, opponents would argue their presence would increase crime in and around these businesses. It’s been a year since Horseshoe Cincinnati opened, and in the fourth part of our series looking back at that year we’ve found, so far, fears of prostitution, drug activity and violent crime haven’t been realized.
“That has just not happened and it’s not happened not by accident," said Captain Paul Broxterman Cincinnati Police Central Business Sector Commander. "A lot of planning goes into security around a casino. Eighty-five percent of our crime Downtown is theft related. Occasionally you’ll have a high profile robbery or an aggravated assault Downtown and the perception is Downtown is not safe when realistically it’s very safe Downtown.”
Most Crimes Minor
Theft in Autos (TFA's) account for 20 percent of crimes around the casino and are often preventable. There was only one report of a felonious assault and "that one is questionable because it couldn’t be found on any of the security cameras," Broxterman said.
While Broxterman is confident the area in and around the casino is safe, he says that’s normal the first few years a casino is open. Crime becomes a bigger issue once people with gambling addiction issues start hitting rock bottom. “You really don’t see issues with those problem gamblers until three to five years out from when the casino opens because that’s when they've tapped all their resources - their savings account, assistance from friends and family - and that's when you start seeing the white collar crime, breaking and enterings, and robberies.”
State regulators on site 24/7
The 27 Cincinnati police officers assigned to the area aren’t the only people watching for problems. Ohio Casino Control Commission Director of Enforcement Karen Huey says her department has gaming agents working on site 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
“They’re all law enforcement professionals and their job is to investigate gaming crimes that occur and criminal activities that occur at the casino. What we’ve seen this year is the usual spike in what we call cheating crimes," said Huey.
She’s talking about gaming crimes at the table games. Those are felonies. She says more than 25 people have been charged with these crimes in Cincinnati. The number of cheaters is similar in Cincinnati, Columbus and Toledo, but higher in Cleveland because of more patrons there. Huey says the Commission was watching for people who would travel to the state just to try cheating at these new casinos. She says Roulette scammers came in from New York.
“But Cincinnati was on top of their game that day and actually were able to make arrests that day (and) so caught some of the people that had hit our other casinos,” said Huey.
Underage issues unique to Cincinnati
Underage gambling issues hit Cincinnati harder than the other three casinos. Horseshoe Cincinnati is the only one that allows people under 21 to enter. They're allowed to go to the restaurants but they’re not allowed on the gaming floor. Huey says underage incidents have greatly diminished since Ohio law was changed in October. Anyone under 21 must now be escorted by casino personnel.
WVXU tried to interview a Horseshoe Casino representative for this story but was told security at the casino is a private matter.