NOTE: I was told that as recently as this week, some of these signs have disappeared. Word from MGM Mirage is that this doesn't indicate a change of policy, just a temporary adjustment of the signage itself.
Over the past several weeks, several bloggers and Las Vegas visitors noticed that at both Luxor and Excalibur, new signs had sprung up prohibiting guests from taking photos or videos in any of the two resort's public areas.
If you're interested in understanding and debating the new policy, continue after the jump.
When I was on property two weeks ago, I saw these signs for myself and when I did, they got me wondering about some of the motivations behind them. Should we expect to see these prohibitions at other properties soon? If so, in what spaces? Was this impacting tourists wanting to photo-document their vacations and if so, were these people upset? These are some of the questions I posed to the company last week and they were kind enough to respond in detail.
The first question was obvious - why? Did something happen? The answer I got was no - nothing specific. In the case of the Luxor, the building's architecture was cited as a problem - given that the atrium lobby area has line-of-sight to many of the guest-rooms, MGM sees this as a prime privacy issue, especially in the world of TwitPic and YouTube.
I'm told the decision to bar photography was made by the operational teams at the resorts, not a top-down decision from MGM Mirage HQ.
I also wanted to know how far this went - indoors and outdoors? What about the pool? I'm told outdoors is fair play, only photos inside the resort are impacted by these policies.
Luxor's atrium has long been a popular spot for photography. That said, it pales compared to Bellagio's Conservatory and other public areas in some of their other resorts. Will we see this policy spread? That was not made clear - MGM stated merely that the policy was currently in place at Luxor and Excalibur only.
Any how about guests? Are they unhappy they aren't allowed to take photos while vacationing? MGM says that generally speaking, people have been understanding and cooperative with the new policy.
If you do have a need to take photos or video, specific arrangements can be made by contacting MGM Mirage PR and setting something up. The implication was that internal, non-security based MGM employees had to follow these same rules - including property social media teams. If they're going to have these sorts of policies, they should at least be consistent. It would be hypocritical to see your photo end up in the @luxorlv TwitPic stream promoting the resort if you're not allowed to shoot them yourself.
As you might imagine, I have opinions on these changes. As someone that has taken thousands of casino photographs, I, like others, believe that these hotels benefit from the exposure they get from those shots. This is maybe even more true given the popularity of Twitter and Facebook. Having to coordinate with PR each time is not really very practical and probably also means less spontaneous shots.
That said, I do understand the privacy concern, at least to some degree. I have always tried to respect the unofficial policy of not shooting random people playing in the casino. My intent isn't to capture these folks on film and I often wish they would get the hell out of the shot - I'm trying to document design features, carpet, architecture and related bits, not some guy cheating on his wife, playing craps with his girlfriend.
Should you expect privacy in your hotel lobby? For me, that seems more like a public space but maybe others disagree. That seems a bit of a stretch.
I guess the unofficial policy wasn't working for these two hotels. I'd love to have been in on those meetings but it seems clear they feel like they gain more than they lose, though I seriously doubt they can practically eliminate photography completely. Who knows, maybe they can... I think that would be a real shame.
What do you guys think? Where should this line be? Have you been impacted by these new rules?