MGM National Harbor Fireworks Cause Panic, Were ‘Diversion for Thieves’

Home » MGM National Harbor Fireworks Cause Panic, Were ‘Diversion for Thieves’

Posted on: February 28, 2022, 08:50h. 

Last updated on: February 28, 2022, 08:50h.

Fireworks set off inside Maryland’s MGM National Harbor Saturday caused a mass exit when patrons feared there was an active shooter inside the building. But police believe the pyrotechnics were conceived as a deliberate diversion so that criminals could steal chips.

MGM National Harbor
The lobby at the MGM National Harbor, where police believe thieves may have set off fireworks as a diversionary tactic. (Image: CNBC)

Prince George County Police were called to the casino at around 11pm on Saturday. Moments earlier hundreds of patrons had fled the premises fearing they were under attack. Witnesses who spoke to local reporters described “chaos and confusion” as panicking customers headed for the exits.

Details remain thin on the ground, but police said they have launched an investigation. Meanwhile, on Sunday, casino-goers were asking to know why MGM Resorts had been so quiet over the incident.

‘Very Scary’

One was local news anchor Tony Perkins, who just happened to be visiting the casino with his wife and two friends. He tweeted that MGM “could and should have handled things better” and complained that “very little or conflicting information” was given to terrified patrons.

“I was at MGM National Harbor last night when a rumor went through the casino that there was possibly an active shooter, and HUNDREDS of us ran for our lives,” Perkins said. “It was chaos and it was scary. How is MGM not clarifying what happened???”

On Monday a St Georges County police spokesperson confirmed that a set of fireworks had been ignited either in the lobby or at the entrance to the casino. The spokesperson also said chips had been taken from gaming tables and there were a “number” of suspects.

As of Monday morning, MGM had not released an official statement or responded to requests for comment.

Perkins said the incident suggested MGM would be unprepared for a real mass shooting incident at the property. That’s concerning because the company beefed up its security response in the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting.

Security Concerns

On October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock opened fire from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of another MGM resort, the Mandalay Bay, on festivalgoers below. He killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. By the time the VIP gambler turned his weapon on himself he had perpetrated the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

Questions were asked about how Paddock had been able to stockpile an arsenal of high-powered weapons in his hotel room. Much of this he had carried up himself using a service elevator. Meanwhile, his room had gone uninspected by hotel staff for three days prior to the massacre.

MGM eventually settled with survivors and families of the dead for $735 million to $800 million.

The National Harbor recently made headlines for another shooting incident. On August 12 last year, two gunmen snuck firearms into the casino before busting into the hotel room of Nathan Nagbe. Earlier in the day, Nagbe had won $60,000 playing blackjack. He was shot in the groin and abdomen as he tried to escape the robbery but survived.

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