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Hotel Security Reexamined After Las Vegas Shooting

Following the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas hoteliers are taking a second look at balancing guest security with a welcoming atmosphere. Some have described security in the hospitality industry as a "conundrum" because "the concept of hospitality is almost directly contrary to that of security. Hotel operators want their guests to feel welcome, accommodated, tended to and not judged or scrutinized."

Without causing any suspicion, the Las Vegas shooter was able to transport more than a dozen firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to his room before the attack. Does that mean hotels need to implement TSA-style security screening, replete with x-rays, metal detectors, and pat downs? This was the approach taken by some major hotel chain in India following the Mumbai hotel terrorist attacks in 2008.

Domestic hotel operators are unlikely to follow suit because of the prohibitive costs – not to mention the inconvenience for guests and possible decline in occupancy rates. A reasonable alternative suggested by several security experts is training staff "to scrutinize customers with items such as fishing gear, skis, [golf bags] and other long, thin items that could be rifles." Hotels might also consider training their cleaning staff to recognize and report security concerns.

In terms of legal liability under Texas law, hotels do not have a general duty to protect a person from the criminal acts of a third party, unless the specific crime and victim are foreseeable. The classic example is a commercial property owner failing to provide security protection despite knowledge of several recent crimes in the area. Some might argue that mass shootings are now foreseeable for some hotel operators, especially in entertainment districts and high traffic areas. Although premises liability for a mass shooting appears unlikely under Texas law, the Las Vegas shooting a reminder that hotel operators must continually reexamine their security policies in light of new and evolving safety hazards.