Everyone who has seen a Las Vegas crime movie has undoubtedly run across the idea that, at some point, the hero of the film will end up in a windowless, cameraless room inside of casino at the order of the film’s villain.
In that room, the villain’s thugs beat the hero senseless and leave him there to devise some Hollywood-clever way to escape.
If you’re not sure what I mean, the best movie featuring such a room is Ocean’s Eleven which, if you haven’t seen it, you really should. Go ahead. I’ll wait… Back now? Good.
Anyway, those cameraless beating rooms probably don’t exist. Not that most casino operators would tell me if they did, but it seems unlikely given the stiff competition among the best casinos in the US that they would have places where you might get the pulp beaten out of you.
Still, it’s fun to think about these rooms, which is why we will look at the origin of the cameraless room, talk about why a casino might have them, why they don’t, and draw our own conclusions about whether they really exist.
The Origin of the Cameraless Room Myth
The origins of the cameraless room appear to be shrouded in myth. One source that I found said that it might have started with the book Bringing Down the House, though the myth appears to be much older.
Back in those days, instead of mega-corporations owning casinos, the mafia either owned them outright or had a big stake in the person who did. And, if Hollywood has taught us anything, when the mob becomes involved, public beatings soon follow.
Historical Precedent for Casino Beatings
Still, it’s hard to get a read on whether there were beatings even back in the 1950s through the 1970s. In and of itself, that’s likely a controversial statement.
From what I can tell, everyone accepted it as fact that casino thugs would seek out cheaters and beat them up as a warning back in the day. Does that mean it happened? Well, it was hard to find a single case where it did even in the case of some famous blackjack card counters.
With that said, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s probably safe to assume that stealing money from a casino in the 1950s likely got you noticed by some people you’d rather not be noticed by. In turn, those people said hello with their firsts and thus, the legend of the Las Vegas casino was established.
Still, whether those beatings took place in a cameraless room in a casino is also up for debate.
Detained, Not Beaten
There is perhaps one modern source of the cameraless room myth—casino detention. Per current law, casino employees can detain anyone as long as there is suspicion of cheating and the detention is not considered extreme.
Really, any casino employee (who all undergo extensive anti-cheating training) has the ability to stop a casino patron on suspicion of cheating and ask them questions. This is probably a little uncomfortable for casino customers when they experience it and, very likely, could circle back to the idea that these detained alleged cheaters may go to a beating room when security gets ahold of them.
Suffice it to say, while security team members may not be the perkiest casino employees, that’s a far cry from thugs who deliver beatings behind closed doors.
What About Casinos Outside of Las Vegas?
Just to be clear, up to this point, the casinos we’re talking about are the big, fancy, visible casinos along the main Las Vegas Strip. Those casinos are governed by a certain set of laws and expectations that likely aren’t the same for Native American casinos, casinos in other countries, or casinos on cruise ships.
It’s safe to say that these types of casinos operate under vastly different laws. Foreign laws, Indian reservation laws, and the law of the open seas are all completely different than United States and Nevada gaming law. Could any of these types of casinos have the famed cameraless room or still beat people up?
While I don’t have any proof, Native American casinos seem pretty safe. Cruise ship casinos also seem pretty safe despite the fact that you can’t really escape the ship if you get caught cheating.
Foreign Casinos May Be a Problem
Native American and cruise ship casinos are probably safe, but it doesn’t take a lot of searching to find that cheaters have been attacked in Cambodia. Still, even this appears to be an isolated incident compared to the number of folks who actually go to these casinos.
With that said, it never hurts to be respectful when you gamble in foreign countries. The fact of the matter is, you probably don’t know the law or the customs.
Why Casinos Might Have Cameraless Rooms
It’s actually highly likely that Las Vegas does have cameraless rooms somewhere in the casinos. Traditionally, these include casino hallways and bathrooms.
But in all seriousness, if you could find the plans for a casino, you might run across a few rooms that don’t have any cameras in them. However, this would not be proof that the casinos were using them for beating anyone.
Ultimately, I think we want to believe that casinos have beating rooms because it adds an element of danger and mystery to the whole operation. Maybe it is true. More than likely, if those rooms do exist, its so that casino security can have a conversation with words, not fists, with suspected cheaters before the cheats are escorted out.
Why Casinos Don’t Have Cameraless Rooms
The lack of a solid beating story from anyone in the last few decades is pretty good proof that casinos don’t have cameraless rooms used Ocean’s Eleven-style. Also, there are two really good reasons why they don’t routinely beat cheaters like we see in the movies—marketers and lawyers.
Why marketers? Consider this. You run MGM Grand and you just found out that Mandalay Bay security beat the tar out of a guy caught cheating. Your next great marketing campaign will center around how your casino is a great place to be and not somewhere you’ll get physically assaulted.
In fact, patrons would leave any casino where beatings happened in droves to the point where the offending casino would likely either shut down or get new, less violent owners faster than it takes to lose a stack of chips at the poker table.
There’s simply no room in Las Vegas’s competition for mob justice. This is doubly true in today’s legal environment. If a patron were to be attacked, they could sue a casino for a lot of money. Like we said before, casinos are owned by large corporations who don’t want to have to go to court over a cheater they could have just thrown out.
The Final Verdict
Given that the world is run by marketers and lawyers, ultimately, the reasons against there being cameraless rooms seems pretty compelling. If this article would have been written 30 years ago, my answer would likely have been different.
It was a different time back then and, as I said, there’s enough circumstantial evidence that I believe there were probably some beatings that took place in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
Today, they have either been renovated or feature camera systems.
Still, a lot of this is hearsay. The casinos clearly aren’t going to advertise the existence of cameraless rooms, either today or in the annals of history. It would be bad for business, and they’re not going to risk anything like that. In turn, that does nothing for the rumor mill that wants to believe such rooms exist.
Whatever you think about cameraless rooms, don’t be afraid to go to a casino unless you’re cheating. Most people will never do anything that warrants a cameraless room, so it probably doesn’t matter.
In the end, the fact that we can enjoy stories with such rooms is what really matters. Happy gambling!