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Vegas massacre heightens worry about safety at live events

Events organizers will once again be forced to revisit a fundamental debate about how — or even if — they can keep concertgoers safe.

Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip following a deadly shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman was found dead inside a hotel room. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Drapes billow out of broken windows at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip following a deadly shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman was found dead inside a hotel room. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(Bloomberg) -- The shooting attack at a Las Vegas concert on Sunday night that killed at least 58 people is the latest in a series of massacres reshaping the live-events industry.

The attack by a solo gunman at an outdoor country-music concert on the Las Vegas Strip was reminiscent of a bombing in May at an Ariana Grande show in Manchester, England, and another tragedy less than two years prior, when gunmen opened fire at a rock concert in Paris.

Related: Malicious acts and the evolving landscape of terrorism insurance 

At least 515 other people were injured in Nevada after the suspect perched in a high-rise room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino and unleashed a barrage of gunfire on the crowd below. He was later found dead.

Videos of the attack showed screaming concertgoers scrambling for cover as the clack-clack-clack of what sounded like an automatic weapon can be heard in the background. In the aftermath, events organizers will once again be forced to revisit a fundamental debate about how — or even if — they can keep concertgoers safe.

Dangers of a determined killer

Sports and concert venues like stadiums and arenas have already beefed up security with metal detectors and wands to check fans as they arrive. Sunday’s incident showed that a determined killer can get around such preparations and that the live-events industry has to do more.

“This isn’t something many people would have anticipated, something on this scale at an outdoor event,” said Chris Robinette, president of Prevent Advisors, which works on security preparations with sports teams and event facilities. “This is something we have to think about and address.”

Besides concerns about the welfare of fans, the industry has significant financial interest at stake. The top 100 tours worldwide generated $4 billion to $5 billion a year in revenue from 2011 to 2016, according to Pollstar. Las Vegas depends on tourism as the linchpin of its economy, and the strip is a fabled thoroughfare flanked by flashy casinos and showrooms that have hosted the likes of Elvis Presley, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.

Vulnerable in Vegas

The shooting underscores a vulnerability for Las Vegas, as the casino industry shifts from one largely dependent on slot machines and blackjack tables to becoming more of an all-around entertainment experience. MGM Resorts International has been a leader in this trend. The casino company opened the T-Mobile Arena for concerts and sporting events and redesigned the front of its New York-New York casino to make it more pedestrian friendly.

Related: The experience economy and what it means for insurers

The Route 91 Harvest festival, where Sunday’s shooting occurred, is among concerts MGM has hosted at a venue it operates along the Strip.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of last night’s shooting, their families, and those still fighting for their lives,” Jim Murren, MGM’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement and will continue to do all we can to help all of those involved.”

Mandalay Bay tweeted Monday, “We are in need of certified trauma counselors.”

Vegas tourism

Tourism to Las Vegas hit an all-time high of 42.9 million guests last year, a 1.5% increase from 2015, and it’s up less than 1% this year. The city can look to Orlando, Florida, the site last year of what is now the second-worst shooting in U.S. history. After a gunman killed 49 in a nightclub tourism to the city slowed. Hotel room bookings fell and theme-park operators offered discounts. Still, the city reported a 3% rise in tourism for the year to 68 million.

The Global Gaming Expo, a major casino-entertainment industry show known as G2E, was scheduled to begin Monday and run through Thursday. One panel Monday, scheduled before the mass shooting, focuses on security risks at nightclubs.

Related: 5 ways to make festival-style concerts safe and enjoyable

Events at G2E, which attracts 26,000 casino managers and the companies that supply them, were going on as scheduled with a few speakers canceling appearances on panels.

MGM fell as much as 5.4% to $30.84 in New York, the biggest intraday decline since February. Wynn Resorts Ltd. also dropped.

Live Nation Inc., which promoted the Route 91 festival, fell as much as 2.2% to $42.58. “To think that anyone would want to inflict harm on a gathering of music lovers is beyond our comprehension,” the world’s largest concert promoter, based in Beverly Hills, California, said in a statement.

McCarran International Airport was busy Monday morning with visitors coming and going to Las Vegas. Transportation Security Administration officials briefly prevented some travelers from leaving gate areas. An officer at the airport said he didn’t know the reason for the delay.

Street closed

Las Vegas Boulevard was closed in front of the Mandalay Bay, Excalibur and the Luxor hotels, all MGM properties,and no one was being allowed in the front entrances. Side streets were blocked off with yellow police tape.

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Many guests were checking out early, according to Berhane Weldu, a cab driver who had been busy shuttling passengers from the hotels to the airport. Security was checking the IDs of those entering and leaving those hotels.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Weldu, who has been a taxi driver in the city for seven years. “It’s so sad.”

Elevated cancellations

MGM Resorts is likely to see elevated cancellations over the next several weeks or months and higher security costs, Instinet Inc. analyst Harry Curtis, who recommends buying the stock, said Monday in a note to investors after talking with management.

“Questions that cannot yet be answered are not typically good for a stock price, but we have faith that the U.S. spirit will not be intimidated by a horrific yet isolated event,” he wrote.

Related: Live event coverage: Insurance for when the show can't go on

Copyright 2017 Bloomberg. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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