Monday, April 30, 2007

Jeff Farmer - poster boy for all that's wrong with binge drinking!

Jeff Farmer has hit the headlines again, this time for punching a security officer at Paramount nightclub. For those of you who don't know, Jeff Farmer is an AFL player for the Fremantle Football Club (also known the Dockers), and the Paramount is a nightclub in the dodgy nightspot of Northbridge in Perth. The latest in a long line of incidents for the man...

About two or three months ago, roundabout six-ish in the morning, a colleague and I at the casino were alerted via cleaning staff that a male was passed out in one of the toilets on the main gaming floor. Upon entering the toilets, we witnessed an Aboriginal male in his late 20s rolling around on the floor, mumbling incoherently. He was surrounded by two or three people. When we asked them what was going on, they said 'He's Jeff Farmer - he's had too much to drunk'. This was pretty obvious, since nobody in their right mind would roll around on a toilet floor, in a casino, early in the morning, if they could help it.

We told them Mr. Farmer would have to leave, and leave now. They requested that we take him out the side entrance, opposite the Irish pub, rather than the main entrance. This was, they said, to avoid embarrassment or negative publicity being brought upon the AFL player. Resisting the temptation to argue that any embarrassment would be wholly self-inflicted, we acquiesced and started to 'guide' Mr. Farmer towards the exit.

This became an ordeal in itself - Farmer couldn't walk straight, stumbled all over the place and seemed quite insistent on trying to play on every electronic gaming machine he walked past, a lack of coinage seemingly not a hinderace to his efforts.

At a set of steps that led up to a raised section of the floor in front of the entrance, Farmer took one of his shoes off and planted it slap bang in the middle of the floor. He took a few steps back, crossed his arms, stared at the shoe and went 'Nup', or something equally incomprehensible. I encouraged him to put his shoe back on, but it appeared as though he was lining up to kick the improvised footy through an imaginary set of goal posts. Eventually, through short but frustrating negotiation, we persuaded him to put his shoe back on, and continued our slow trek towards the entrance, now about 20 metres away.

Just as we were about to walk through the entrance, Farmer darted off to the left, down a bank of electronic gaming machines. Again, he tried to play the machines, and again we had to repeat our requests for him to leave. His mates finally coaxed him out of the casino. We informed them and Farmer that he was barred for 24 hours, and informed our base to this effect. Farmer and co. sat on the steps of the Irish pub nearby, and that was where we left them.

Now, from what I hear, Farmer put in an appearance at the casino's nightclub on the same night of the ill-fated incident at Paramount this weekend gone. Whilst the exact time is not confirmed, what is known is that security staff approached Farmer and asked him to leave due to his clear intoxication. Allegedly, he then attempted to run away from security staff. You can't take people anywhere these days!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Moving on now - nightclubs

Started my second week of work with an agency that provides door staff/crowd controllers/bouncers (depending on where you are in the world, they are called different things) to nightclubs and bars here. I've negotiated a very good pay rate with them and have got some decent venues, on the whole.

Most of it involves standing in fixed positions, monitoring the crowd and signalling up fights or intoxicated people, then dealing with them. There's the odd push or shove between people here and there, but nothing amounting to the brawls; bottlings and general mayhem of the nightclub attached to the casino in which I used to work.

One of the upmarket bars loved me on my first night, and requested that I be placed there each weekend, which suits me fine.

Worked a cruisy venue last night, which, towards the end, was the host of an amusing little scene. It is a large venue, with some areas being closed off since it wouldn't be economical to put staff there and run the area. One of the guys was 'roving' around when he happened to stick his head through into one of the closed areas to make sure nobody was there. What he saw tickled him, and he called a few of us over to have a look. In a sofa in a dark corner were two shilloutes, one of whom was giving the other a headjob. After a few seconds of laughing at this classy display of affection between two close and deeply intimate people, we switched on the lights adn kicked them out. The walk of shame for the couple was accompanied by a guard of honour of door staff - maybe now they'll acquire a bit of decorum and find a toilet cubicle instead. Believe me, it's a step up for these people!

Friday, April 20, 2007

A strange phenomenon...

Can anyone please tell me why, in some of the more downmarket clubs, do some of the guys tend to turn up their collars (or, in some cases, what passes for them) after they've had a few drinks? Are they trying to imitate an Elvis outfit, think it looks suave, or what?

Never quite understood it and I think it makes them look ridiculously pathetic - too 'try-hard', if you will.

Any light that could be shed on this would be much appreciated!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Incredibly short-staffed!

I hear from my sources that last night, ten Security Officers called in sick to the casino, leaving them incredibly understaffed.

Whilst the majority of these cases were genuine illnesses, some with the potential to affect the officer's ability to work for at least the next week or so, others were sickies thrown 'on the spur'. Like any place that operates on a Saturday night then...

The Operations Manager, who is acting up in situ following their bosses temporary departure, phoned a contract company desperate to get staff to work on the areas that aren't classified as the gaming floor, presumably in an effort to free up licensed staff for boxes; urgent chip runs; dealing with main gaming floor incidents and other such matters. Because of the short notice and that this company had just finished up a big job elsewhere that night, nobody volunteered to work.

How I would have loved to have been at the casino last night! They're short-staffed at the best of times, but I wonder how soon it will be until this situation repeats itself. If they didn't fire people left, right and centre for the slightest reason, they wouldn't have this issue...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Still around! A LONG rant...

Greetings to anyone who still reads this blog! Well, I'm still here, and still working in the security industry, but not for much longer! I have a very good job lined up outside of the industry, and can't wait to start! I no longer work at the casino. If you still haven't worked out which one it was, trust me, it isn't difficult!

As readers could probably tell from this blog, I was not particularly happy working there and intended to leave, especially after being injured! Unfortunately, thanks to their penalty system, the pay was very good, which was the only reason I stayed for as long as I did. It is time and a half on Saturdays and double-time on Sundays. There was also plenty of overtime going as well, which pays at double-time for the entire period you work. This overtime was abundant due to the casino being extremely short-staffed in terms of Security Officers. Few if any of the teams are at full strength, and a lot of the part-timers are university students, so aren't always available during the week. However I've recently learnt that, since they've gone way over budget in regards to overtime, management are reluctant to get people in on overtime unless they're desperately short. One day shift, for example, had eight (count that, eight) Security Officers parading on during one shift I was there, which was to last the whole twelve hours! Now, eight barely covers the minimum legal requitements for casino security, so they had to bring in people at short notice and keep other staff on for a bit longer. Fantastic logistics and rostering if you ask me!

The reason that they're short-staffed is that nobody wants to work at the casino in Security anymore! As one ex-officer put it to me: "A few years ago, people in the industry would have walked over broken glass to work Security there. Now, they can't get far enough away from it!" The reasons why have become abundantly clear in recent months.

First, is the nature of the patrons. As long as people meet the (token) dress standards, have minimum acceptable ID and aren't falling over drunk, they can get in. I often sympathised and agreed with more well-to-do folk who entered the casino through whichever door I was on, spent five minutes in the place and left in disgust. Dress code standards are almost non-existent. As long as you haven't got exceptionally visible rips in your clothes, a singlet or beach thongs, you're in! The place is full of the sort of people you often see hanging out at your local Centrelink, and cross the road to avoid. Remnants of the primordial gene pool would be a concise and fairly accurate description for them. Drunk; smelly; low-life; abusive; unhygenic; dole-bludging; feral and exceedingly unintelligent would be a few choice adjectives to elaborate, applying equally to both male and female patrons. I could categorise them into amusing archetypes, and I may well do if I can be bothered, in a later post. Why deal with these idiots and the low level incidents they cause, day in, night out, when one can do another security job in a safer, more upmarket area in a safer, more upmarket role?

An increasing number of ‘gangs’, official and otherwise, have started frequenting the casino of late. Sometimes, their disputes with each other will come with them and play out on the property. At one stage, officers running from the nightclub to restrain a male hurling bottles at a car found themselves under attack from a several bottle missiles hurled through the air from the car in their general direction. The incident wasn’t reported, even though there was the potential for serious injury.

Patrons come in because the place is open 24 hours, the majority of Security Officers won't or can't be bothered to discriminate unless it is exceedingly obvious that they should not be allowed in (partly due to lack of training, addressed below), and the bars are open late. The patrons are too stupid to realise that it is not a happy, jovial place where fun and frolics can be had. A casino exists for the sole purpose of increasing the profits of its owners, achieved through fleecing people's money in every conceivable fashion and squeezing every last dollar out of them, from over-inflated alcohol prices down to the $2.50 gaming tables, whilst projecting the illusion that to engage in this is somehow enjoyable. Plying the patrons with alcohol serves to both numb the brain to the irrationality of gambling and makes losing money more acceptable, since it helps the patron delude themselves that they may win their money back. I feel sorry for the staff too, as many are lured to work in the casino with the promise of working in a luxurious, dynamic environment where they'll be serving beautiful people out for a good time, and quickly become disillusioned when they're dealing with the same paralytic redneck white trash and vacuous indigenous troublemakers day in, day out in a gaming floor that is positively dangerous for all concerned on a weekend night.

Drunk, broke and down on their luck, the proles take it out on each other, on staff and (occasionally) on property. Blaming the casino (and not their own idiocy) for their predicament, an increasing number are refusing to go quietly when asked. Most people are kicked out with a standard (and unwritten) 24 hour ban. No details are taken, and they’re back the next day, to (eventually) be kicked out again. It is an endless struggle against a virtually limitless number of troublemakers. In serious incidents, some people are barred under a separate power for up to two years, but this is equally ineffective, as will be seen later. It was getting to the stage when I left that at least one Security Officer would be assaulted a week. I have it on good authority that it's happening more often now. Bottle attacks in one form or another and headbutts against Security staff there seem to be fairly regular occurrences now. In the night club, there’s usually at least one patron attacked with a bottle per Friday and Saturday night. Thus, whilst they’re well paid in comparison to other work, Security Officers at the casino are facing an escalation in the likelihood of being assaulted in some form or another. Indeed, it is at the stage where, if a report of a fight between patrons comes up, a large number of officers will not bother making haste to the location. This wouldn’t be so bad if management backed up their staff, trained them and had a team of experienced professionals. This, however, is most definitely not the case.

Because the casino operates under different legislation to the rest of the universe, it can get away with pretty much whatever it wants. I’m convinced there could be a murder at the casino and it still wouldn’t lose its licence even if it was found to be at fault in every conceivable way. It simply brings in too much money for the government. A practical manifestation of this is that Security Officers need not have a security licence to work there, unlike the majority of other security jobs and roles in the State. Instead, they need only have a casino gaming licence, which requires no formal training or accreditation to obtain. To obtain a security licence, one needs to undertake a security course. Albeit basic, it covers legislation in regards to applicable powers, rights and responsibilities of security officers; restraint techniques and general guidelines on how to perform the role of a Security Officer or Crowd Controller (bouncer). This ensures that people with a security licence have at least a basic grounding in what is required and expected of them. This is not so at the casino. Indeed, an increasing number of Security Officers who work there have no security licence and no previous security experience. It is entirely possible that the casino is pivoting the Security Department towards a more customer-focused role, and is hiring people with customer service experience, but this not mitigate the lack of training in legislation, roles, requirements and suchlike that would be possessed by those with a security licence. Indeed, on several occasions, Security Officers with no previous experience or qualifications were hired and placed in the midst of the mayhem on a Friday night as their first shift, with no introduction to the company, their job or their teams at all! Meanwhile, a large number of new starters in the department have, in fact, been internal transfers from other departments of the casino and its operating company. This may indicate the casino’s lack of success in hiring people from outside (read qualified and experienced Security Officers). Some of the new starters lack confidence, and this shows when dealing with confrontational situations. In several cases I did not feel I could rely on colleagues for backup, either in presence or physical restraint.

This leads on to the lack of training provided by the casino. In the entire time I was there, I received no formal training, accredited or otherwise. That’s right, no Responsible Service of Alcohol; Responsible Service of Gaming, education on applicable legislation or anything. I shadowed people for the first four shifts and was shown how to do things, but received no follow-up on whether or not I understood the procedures or could perform the properly. No performance review in the entire time I was there, even though there was mean to be one every three months. No training in dealing with non-compliant; aggressive or violent patrons, and god forbid you try and restrain them using techniques you were taught elsewhere! Instruction consisted of shift briefs in which we were told the latest things we couldn’t do. It’s not just Security – some bar staff, lacking experience anyway, receive no training in RSA, thus leaving Security to pick up the pieces when the intoxicated patrons are finally cut off from the bar, when they could have been merrily sent on their way several pints earlier, with a happier ending for all. One bar supervisor telling their bar staff not to cut people off unless absolutely necessary, because it’s more hassle for the supervisor, certainly doesn’t help matters and is hardly in the spirit of RSA. Bars serving until quite literally the last legally permissible limit, without any ‘last orders’ period ties up Security Officers who could be deployed elsewhere in overseeing people who purchased a full pint at 0300 hours, bang on closing time, and (quite rightly) expect a reasonable amount of time to be able to drink up.

So, thus far, we have the problem of Security Officers not being licensed, experienced, qualified or trained, dealing with drunk and aggressive pond scum packed into a casino that encourages excess (but they’ll never admit it). What more could one want?

How about unsupportive management? From the first day, one is instilled with an unease and distrust of management. Old wives tales of previous officers who were ‘screwed over’ by management for seemingly innocuous acts pervade the first few shifts of a new Officer who, enthusiastic and giddy with this new role and environment, will happily dismiss such stories. Indeed, I was warned by several people before starting that management will not back you up, and that many people have left prior to me because of this. I didn’t believe them. However, it soon becomes apparent that if management are unhappy with something you have done, your job is on the line, even if you haven’t been trained or shown what to do, can fully justify what you did or are backed up by colleagues. Oftentimes, the Surveillance Department keep a watchful eye on Security Officers, reporting their infractions and violations of protocol, no matter how slight, to management for actioning. Even before an investigation is carried out, officers are suspended, threatened with dismissal and intimidated into feeling guilty, even if they are subsequently cleared. If there’s an incident in which there is no patron, staff or managerial complaint, and thus no case to answer, Surveillance will still take it upon themselves to alert management, at which stage a presumption of guilt of the employee is made. The employee is invited to a meeting, with or without immediate suspension. This meeting is a chance for them to try and argue their case. Meanwhile, a case is prepared against them, including the collation of surveillance footage, witness statements and anything else that may be used in the casino’s efforts to get rid of the employee. Something as innocuous as allegations that an officer refused to perform a requested chip run has lead to threatening letters and investigations in the past, even when hotly contested by the officer concerned, and with evidence supporting the officer’s side in abundance. This demoralises other Officers, for an overzealous disciplinary procedure, vitriolic Surveillance and draconian managers combine to serve as a disincentive for using one’s initiative, going above and beyond their job description or role, or generally acting in the interests of the casino. Serving officers are well advised to avoid fostering a bond of loyalty with the casino, as the casino, through management, will recognise no such loyalty and will act accordingly. Long serving officers have been suspended in the past for dealing with patrons in accordance with casino policy and even their training. When that patron has complained and filed their own civil or criminal matter against that officer (if you don’t work in the industry, it happens more often than you think), management becomes paranoid about vicarious liability. In an attempt to avoid it, they will suspend the employee concerned with a view to dismissal, presumably to distance themselves from the employee, their actions and, thus, liability. This compounds the stress, psychological impact and detriment the employee suffers. The casino does not and will not stand by its employees, especially if there’s the possibility of any legal action, media involvement or negative publicity. Which leads on to the casino’s obsession with positive image at the expense of all else.

It is an unofficial assumption amongst Security Officers that the casino will sack them in a heartbeat should they do anything that could be construed as tarnishing the casino’s image. This includes defending themselves against an attack by a patron or preventing a further attack, if the manner in which they defend themselves doesn’t ‘look good’. A recent incident, in which an employee was suspended and subsequently resigned for attempting to restrain a violent patron who had assaulted both patrons and a staff member and was continuing to resist efforts to be restrained, illustrates this point nicely. If Officers haven’t been trained in the ‘approved’ techniques by management and trainers, they risk dismissal if they use anything else. Therefore, it beggars belief that the casino has, in several cases, hired Security Officers with no previous experience, qualifications, licence or accreditation, placed them on the floor on a Friday night as their first ever shift with no previous introduction to the job, and exposes them to confrontational and often violent situations.

The culture imposed on Security Officers by security management of ‘talk them down no matter what’, whilst well-intentioned and a sensible first resort policy for any organisation, is taken too far in the casino’s instance. Indeed one manager was telling staff that ‘if you have to talk to them until the end of your shift, do so.’ In a culture shift from previous years and managerial regimes, physical removals of aggressive, abusive or passively resistant patrons is discouraged, again out of managerial paranoia of image and potential liability. Thus casino patrons, well-to-do and otherwise, are treated to the oft-repeated scenario of three or four Security Officers standing around a patron who is drunk and screaming their head off at anyone in particular, using every obscenity imaginable and casting aspersions on every aspect of the Security Officer; staff member; other patrons or the casino. Whereas, in most places, people would reasonably expect that this sort of behaviour not be tolerated, and the person making a scene and hurling abuse be quickly physically removed from the premises, in the casino, this can go on for (sometimes) tens of minutes without any action on Security’s part, making Security look weak, indecisive and most certainly unable to control the situation, which can and does dissuade some people from frequenting the casino (amongst the long list of many other reasons not go there). Patrons high on drink and drugs are, in some cases, systematically incapable of responding to reason and logic, whilst others will simply refuse to co-operate because they refuse to recognise the authority of Security Officers. In such cases, there is no other option but to physically remove them.

Finally, the ‘barring notice’, or the ability, provided by law, to ban people from the casino or the entire resort for a period of time, whilst nice in theory, is unworkable in practice. There are so many people barred at any one time, that it is physically impossible to keep track of them all with the antiquated paper-based system used by the casino to maintain its barring records. Unless the barred person is repeatedly caught in the casino, most officers won’t know if someone is barred or not, especially if the person was barred before the Security Officer commenced work there (and, with the turnover so high at the moment, anyone barred over a year ago is unlikely to be recognised by a large number of Security Officers). Furthermore, enforcement action taken by management when a barred person is caught is often laughable. Whilst theoretically open to prosecution or an infringement notice administered by Government Inspectors, many barred people are hauled into the office, reminded they are barred and politely (or not so politely) told to leave and not return. It is an inefficient system because of the antiquated filing method, reliance on observation of barred people in order to be effective and because so little is done when barred people are caught that many simply ignore the notice and continue to frequent the casino, often successfully until they are eventually caught, if caught at all! It is, at best, a token effort to maintain some semblance of patron control over a long period of time. Whilst some are starting to use their own initiative and maintain intelligence files of regular troublemakers, the majority do not. On a Saturday night, when there are thousands of people on the floor and an already overstretched Security department is under the pump, one cannot hope to identify every barred person or deal with those who have re-entered.

So there you have it, a long and detailed list of reasons why the casino is in such shit state; Security staff are demoralised, demotivated and leaving in droves, and why very few people actually want to work in the department. There are more I can write, but this will do for the moment. If you are on a night out, for the love of God, go ANYWHERE else. If you are thinking of working there, then on your own head be it. You won’t last long – you’ll either get assaulted and be unable to work, or feel the wrath of management eventually. What's worse is that with the casino having a monopoly on state gambling (it's the only one), management can be arrogant and do pretty much whatever they want. Why? Because people can't go anywhere else for another casino!