Is Photography Allowed in Casinos?

Sin City

Rex Turner has an excellent article over at his blog Vegas Rex regarding photography in casinos. His post follows an article published in the Las Vegas Review Journal (where he was also quoted) about the story of Bob Woolley. Woolley recently was detained by security guards at the Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas after taking photographs in their casino.

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:

“Bob Woolley ducked into the Cannery Casino in North Las Vegas to grab a snapshot for the “guess the casino” feature on his poker blog.

He wound up in a back room with security guards who objected to Woolley shooting a decorative mural on the casino wall.

The experience left him shaken, wondering why something thousands of visitors and locals do every day in casinos earned him the unwanted escort by armed guards.

“I acknowledge their right as a private company to have stupid policies,” said Woolley, 47, of Las Vegas. “But that doesn’t give them the right to kidnap me.”

There’s a long history in Las Vegas of customers being detained by casinos, despite untold amounts of money casinos have spent on legal defense and settlements.

Woolley’s is an example of how running afoul of often vague or inconsistently enforced casino rules can quickly escalate from an exchange of words with security guards to an unwanted trip to a casino detention area.”

I have to say that even as I’ve taken hundreds of photographs in casinos personally I’ve always done it somewhat discretely because I’d always assumed that casinos didn’t allow photography in casinos at all. I’m not sure why I’ve assumed this other than a friend of mine was once told that he couldn’t take photographs in an Indian Reservation casino. The fact of the matter is though that I’ve never personally been asked not to take photographs in casinos in numerous trips to Vegas or on a recent trip to Reno.

One part of the Las Vegas Review article that I found especially encouraging was a comment made by Former Aladdin casino partner Bill Zender. “You think about bomb threats, robberies, an earthquake, fires. These are things you worry about,” Zender said. “I like people taking pictures of my casino so they can show their friends. It is free advertising.”

Zender’s attitude is a good one. Personally I’d be far more inclined to spend time (and my money) in a casino that had this kind of pro photography attitude. And Zender is right, photographs are free advertising for casinos.

A good article by the Las Vegas Review Journal and a good follow up blog post by Vegas Rex. It would appear that casinos are actually far more ok with photography than I personally thought. Maybe it’s time to bust out one of those new cheap $49 fares on Southwest and head out to Vegas for a little more shooting after all! I’ll just need to make sure I boycott the Cannery Casino on my next visit.

My Las Vegas set here.

My Reno Set here.

Thanks for the heads up William!

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12 Comments

  1. My understanding is that most casino’s don’t want you taking photos in the gambling area for a variety of reasons, but are OK with photos just about anywhere else on the premises. The reasons I’ve been told or have heard second hand for the photography ban in the gambling areas are: 1) Privacy, some patrons don’t want to be photographed gambling. 2) Potential for Cheating, particularly around the tables. 3) Flash is annoying. I know you and I don’t use them, but most people with point and shoots do.

    I have shot in Vegas inside the following casinos, NY NY, MGM Grand, Cesar’s Palace, The Venician, Bellagio, Circus Circus and probably a few others I have forgotten, and I’ve never had anyone look twice at me. Note that I generally did not shoot in the gaming areas.

  2. Paul E. Ester says:

    Assume that some of this is to protect the privacy of degenerate gamblers who might otherwise be embarrassed to be caught gambling.

  3. Eric says:

    Woolley’s run-in is unfortunate. I think the security definitely crossed the line.

    On a related note . . . When I went to PMA earlier in the month, I stayed at Planet Hollywood. When checking in, I asked the clerk about the hotel and casino’s photography policy. I was told it was ok to take photos in the casino. I took several shots inside the Planet Hollywood casino with my 5D Mark II and a variety of different lenses. I encountered no problems from security or otherwise.

    I think it may be a different question, however, if you were taking images from a table though. I think casinos have pretty strict rules regarding the use of electronic devices at tables. I saw one blackjack dealer ask a guy to leave the table because he had his cell phone out. I imagine this policy is in place to prevent the use of electronic devices for card counting.

  4. William Beem says:

    Paul:

    Degenerate gamblers? That would describe more people on Wall Street these days than those in Las Vegas casinos. It’s an escape for most of them, though certainly there are some who are compulsive. Your point goes to an out of date concept that gambling is for those who are morally weak. I think many Americans no longer feel that way and the stigma of gambling isn’t what it was decades ago when the Mob ran the place.

    So without the moral stigma of gambling, what’s the problem with photographing people enjoying some entertainment in a space open to the public?

  5. I have personally always had a good experience shooting in casinos. However I did get shooed away in a mall because of a mural. The security guard who was very polite to me, and didn’t ask for anything ridiculous, let me know that the mall was not allowing any photography due to their contract with Arizona Highways Magazine who put up a giant mural on their wall because they wanted you to buy postcards.

    (I didn’t like the mural anyway, I was taking pictures of my wife in front of a store)

    I totally concur on the free advertising. All the Mandalay casinos have already been very good to me.

    John

  6. Glenn Olsen says:

    I just spent the weekend at the Mohegan Sun Casino outside of Groton, CT. The Casino paid to have a couple of “whales” brought out from Chicago. I asked about photography when we were checking in and was informed that photography was permitted everywhere except for the gaming tables. Makes good sense. Lots of interesting stuff to shoot.

  7. Brad says:

    I think a lot has to do with attitude. Sneak around shooting pix and you raise suspicions. Shoot confidently and you don’t

  8. Just ask anyone for permission before shooting. I’ve never been told no. I’m a Vegas based wedding photographer who shoots weddings on the strip weekly. I’ve shot on gaming tables and at slot machines. Ask the pit boss or a nearby security guard and most likely they’ll say yes. If they say no, move along. There are plenty of things in this city to shoot. 🙂

  9. Just wanted to also add that I was at El Cortez in downtown Las Vegas recently and asked the security guard about their photography policy. He told me that they don’t permit photography because the cameras interfere with the proper functioning of the machines. Um, yep.

    But, moral of the story – just ask.

  10. Ray says:

    I visited Atlantic City and my friends and I walked through the Tropicana to visit the shops and get to the boardwalk (we didn’t gamble there). Nobody said anything when I took pictures in the shopping area, but when I tried to take a picture in the casino itself, a security guard said from across the room “No pictures.” I asked her why and she didn’t give me a reason; she just repeated “No pictures.” However, the Trump Marina had no problem with me taking pictures. They even said it was okay at the front desk.

    I’ll never gamble at Tropicana Atlantic City.