A sharp rise in arrests at Missouri’s 13 casinos is the result of better training and an increase in the number of patrons who are caught with outstanding warrants, the agency responsible for policing casinos said.
Data provided to the state Gaming Commission by the Missouri State Highway Patrol shows that 5,273 arrests were made at the casinos in 2015, compared to 2,800 in 2010.
At the same time, the number of visits to Missouri casinos plummeted from roughly 53.8 million in 2010 to 43.8 million this year.
Casinos are no less safe than they were in the past, Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. John Hotz said.
“Over the past several years, the gaming division has increased the amount of training, not only of the officers but of other employees, on casino-related types of crime,” he said.
The most common reasons for arrests are stealing, underage patrons trying to gamble, trespassing and outstanding warrants, he said.
As of Dec. 1 there were 118 troopers assigned full-time to the casinos, which pay their salaries, he said.
A group that has long opposed gambling in Missouri said the spiking arrest numbers at a time of sharply falling attendance are proof that casinos are bad for families.
“No one should be surprised at the rise in gambling-related crime,” said Don Hinkle, director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention. “The increase in arrests not only negatively impacts those arrested, but extends its misery to their families, particularly innocent children.”
Lumiere Place Casino has seen the highest number of arrests in the state ever since it opened on the St. Louis riverfront in December 2007.
This year, the casino had 2,034 arrests, Missouri Gaming Commission reports show. The casino, which has seen visits drop by more than 45 percent since 2010, attributed its arrest numbers to enhanced security measures and better training.
Jeff Babinski, Lumiere Place’s vice president and general manager, said in a statement that the casino has installed additional exterior and interior surveillance cameras and placed new guard shacks in surface parking lots in the last few years.
The casino also makes annual contributions to the community improvement district to help pay for additional police, he said.
Ameristar’s Kansas City casino, which had the third-highest number of visits in 2015, had 1,008 arrests in 2015.
Troy Stremming, vice president of government relations and public affairs for Ameristar’s owner, Pinnacle Entertainment, said the number of arrests shows that casinos are safe for everyone but criminals.
“If you’re somebody up to no good, casinos are not a good place for you,” he said.
With more than 5 million people coming into Ameristar’s Kansas City casino in 2015, Stremming called the arrest numbers “minuscule.”
Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association, acknowledged the growing number of people arrested for outstanding warrants but noted that most of those were for crimes that happened away from casino property.
“Each situation at each location is going to be different,” he said. “Some have higher incidents of arrests primary due to their locations in more metropolitan areas and the volume of their business.”