Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

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?


Read archived comments (16 so far)
May 7, 2010 2:31 PM Posted by Eric

I don't think the real question here is "should you expect privacy in your hotel lobby?"

The real question, to me, is "should you expect privacy in your hotel room HALLWAY?" And the more I think about that question, the more I think the answer is "yes."

Luxor's design, with the room hallways open and visible from the atrium, is a real liability in this case.

As I said on the podcast comment, I have NO idea why they included Excalibur in the new policy. For Luxor, I can see the privacy concerns. For Excalibur, I cannot.

May 7, 2010 3:25 PM Posted by Dave

But can they really prevent pictures from being taken? Will they confiscate phones with cameras?

If the problem is taking pictures of people entering and leaving their rooms, then why not just stop people taking pictures of other people in the hallways?

May 7, 2010 4:36 PM Posted by mike_ch

Dave, they can't confiscate anything. They can ask you to leave (which they can do for any ol' reason) and that's about it.

I have to say that I feel like I probably contributed to this in some strange way, though none of this gives me any desire to stop.

My photography on here takes little effort to remove people, hide identities, or what have you. But it's often pretty blurry, misaligned (not straight), and the lighting isn't very good. StripWalk photos are, nine times out of ten, taken while wandering the guest patterns and many times I don't even bother to stop walking for my shots. I do try to not bring attention to myself by not using flashes (which means taking a lot of pictures of the same thing while walking in hopes one turns out good.)

Photo enthusiasts around the world complain of a "war on photographers" happening in every city. Some people will be isolated and confronted even in places where photos are being taken all the time. Even in foreign countries where it seems like personal liberties are pretty free-wheeling, photographers get harassed by private and public security for what they're doing. Police in Amsterdam will probably react faster to public photography than public drug use, if you get what I mean.

I don't think the presence of public signs is going to change me in any way. I'll use my phone more often than a proper camera perhaps, but I already do that at properties that are notoriously touchy even without signs hanging around. All properties have some tolerance level where at some point they will eventually ask you to stop, and although I might move these two properties closer to Bellagio than Paris in terms of tolerance, but it doesn't actually accomplish anything.

I have always tagged the @LuxorLV account in my posts about breaking their policy, just to see if they'll eventually say anything.

May 7, 2010 5:38 PM Posted by Ted Newkirk

In the Las Vegas TV show, one episode had them trying to deal with a guy who was taking candid photos of guests in the Montecito (everything from simply candid pics of hot chicks to semi-upskirts and similar). The guy was running a candid chicks of Vegas website.

So as much as properties may benefit from the worldwide exposure of everybody shooting them, there is a downside: Pissed off guests who get their photo taken without consent. Especially if that photo is sexual and gets posted online.

I think we have Vegas Rex partially to blame. Most everybody in the online world stuck to shooting photos of the actual casino: Decor, machines, carpet, art, exhibits, lobby, similar. Rex dove head-first in doing candids that included visitors.

Be interesting to see if it spreads. I went over to Palazzo a couple weeks after it opened and shot the place to death (no PR escort, no notice that I was coming, and I'm generally not recognizable as I don't plaster my photo on my sites). Casino interior photos here:
(I shot tons more but tend to only post about 20% of what I shoot). The only issue I had was that I was waved away from the gaming area. You'll notice the lack of people in the shots. I didn't shoot people.

At the end of the day, if someone really wants casino interior shots, spycam places sell stuff you can wear. So, it's not a security issue.

I just think that too many people are shooting and posting shots of people they don't know. And whether it is a guy at a craps table who didn't want his boss to know he's spending a couple of "sick" days in Vegas to "candid girls" stuff, the properties most likely feel it is a bad reflection on them.

May 7, 2010 7:21 PM Posted by Hunter

I'm going to defend Rex here because I don't think the photos he takes provoke any more of a reaction than anyone elses. The impression I get is that they just don't want photos. The casinos don't seem to discriminate on what's in them.

May 7, 2010 9:29 PM Posted by Ben

Speaking of photos... I know it is a no-no to shoot inside of Macau casinos, but does anyone have a good flicker link or something? I'd love to see the inside of Wynn and/or Encore Macau...

May 8, 2010 6:37 PM Posted by ooo000

For a good laugh of overzealous photo policies, work at a US Embassy sometime. The prominent security measures outside attract curious onlookers, who in turn snap photos... security confronts the onlookers, then officials claim we need tighter security because of increased "reconnaissance" activity.

May 8, 2010 7:34 PM Posted by William Beem

If you're in a publicly visible place, even on private property, you have no expectation of privacy. If I walk outside my hotel room into the hallway, that's a shared and public space.

The atrium, lobby and even the casino is openly viewable by ANYONE who can enter the property. So what is so wrong with taking a photograph? Seriously, people get their panties in a knot about cameras in the hands of tourists while they are standing in one of the most heavily photographed areas in the world - a casino! Do you think those glass bubbles above you are there to protect you? Hell, no. You're being photographed to protect the casino.

May 10, 2010 5:58 PM Posted by Jinx

This has been in effect for about a year now at Luxor as they were up (the signs) last July. I have to wonder if some of the individual management groups at some of the MGM resorts truly get things sometime.

I suppose I can buy the Luxor's argument that the atrium has room line of sight, but then the Excalibur implements the policy a short time later, and there reason for why?

The reason I ask whether some of the mgmt heads get it at the individual resorts, is the small decisions I see at times. When resort fees were first introduced it was on a property specific level (I was told) and decided on by the management team at the time, Luxor at that point was not adding them to comped rooms, others were. Also as of the fall Luxor pulled all of their bartop vp below $1, which was put back at the beginning of this year per the bartender on my last trip.

I know MGM has paid lip service to trying to put their resorts under one umbrella and tier them more like Harrahs, but it continues to sound like they have way too many chefs in the kitchen, that aren't willing to give up their domains. I'm sure it doesn't help the PR machine, that they have these differing policies per resort and makes it difficult for one message to be directed from corporate.

I know Bellagio is considered to be less of a hotel since MGM acquired, but I think you can still see that there are people at the resort that get it, evident by the resort fee still not being applied there, and many service level choices that the resort makes that differ from sister properties.

May 14, 2010 4:07 PM Posted by David McKee

I agree with Jinx that it's apparent that MGM is still "silo-ing" the management of its casinos (or "stovepiping," if you prefer), although I think they should *pay* you not to take pictures of Excalibur, which Playboy famously described as "tacky, even by Vegas standards."

May 15, 2010 2:00 PM Posted by parchedearth

My understanding is there was always a 'policy' at all properties of no photos and enforcement varied widely. This goes back 40 years to the belief that gambling is a sin/vice and respectable guests would not want to be photographed at the tables. Over the last decade, this policy has been fairly relaxed. I am not surprised that a couple properties have just now put out signs for what has been a much commented about ongoing issue. Yes, I think we would all prefer the MGM properties have a uniform policy and realize photos are going to happen regardless.

May 15, 2010 2:22 PM Posted by mike_ch

parchedearth: Not correct, actually. In fact, in it's original tackiest opening period Excalibur allowed photos everywhere. See:

May 16, 2010 9:15 AM Posted by parchedearth

mike_ch - I stand corrected. Excellent find on that photo.

Although I think the fact they advertised that photos were allowed at Ex, indicates this was a new approach that differed from other properties.

May 18, 2010 3:47 AM Posted by JMT

The 4 Queens has a sign outside their front entrance that says, Please feel free to take photos in the Four Queens. We want you to remember your visit. Please do not be disruptive to games or our other guests. Commercial photography must be authorized by management. No video cameras in the casino, please.

I think if more people had common sense, this wouldn't be an issue.

June 25, 2010 2:17 AM Posted by Vicki

I got yelled at by security at The Sahara Casino for taking a picture of my husband playing dollar blackjack. Him and the dealer got really bent out of shape over it. I thought it must have been a security issue, and they thought I was cheating. It makes sense thought that customers would want to protect their privacy. I wish they just would of told me why so I didn't have to feel like a jerk all night.

August 17, 2010 11:40 AM Posted by Jeff

The wife and I were at the Luxor in April 2010 and they had the signs up then. They did not enforce it....we took a lot of pictures and nobody said anything. In fact the "Party Pit" dancers stop to pose for pictures.