Will baggage screening become standard at hotels?

Last Updated Oct 3, 2017 4:58 PM EDT

One of the many lingering questions in the wake of this week's massacre in Las Vegas is how shooter Stephen Paddock managed to bring dozens of weapons to his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino without arousing suspicion.

According to security experts, no U.S. hotels currently screen guests' bags, which airline passengers have grudgingly accepted as part of the travel experience -- as have concert goers and fans attending professional and college sports games. Though the hotel industry has discussed the idea for years, hoteliers have been reluctant to endorse it for a variety of logistical and legal reasons. 

"We have talked about that, but we haven't had a significant enough call to action within the industry to do so," said Stephen Barth, a hospitality industry consultant who also is a professor at the University of Houston. "The government supports screening at the airport. There hasn't been any such support offered, that I'm aware of, to the hotel industry at even the larger hotels."

Threat analyst Jeff Moore, who studies security issues at hotels, expects increasing pressure on hotels to improve security after the Las Vegas shooting despite the challenges it entails, such as potential lawsuits over profiling.

"You don't have to screen every single bag," said Moore. "I don't think the cost will be overwhelming for a lot of these big casinos, which pull in well over a billion dollars a year."

Officials with the National Hotel & Lodging Association and the American Gaming Association couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for Marriott International (MAR) told CBS Moneywatch that "Security procedures and risk assessments at our properties are reviewed often, and we typically reevaluate them after tragic acts like this to determine what, if any, changes may need to be made." She added that given the variety of hotels in the chain, "individual security measures are tailored to each property. As a result, we have a range of security measures in place throughout and around the hotels." 

According to media reports, Paddock didn't have a criminal record, though his late father was a bank robber who made the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List during the late 1960s. Paddock's brother Eric was dumbfounded, saying Stephen Paddock showed no signs of distress and was a multimillionaire who made much of his money investing in real estate.

He said his brother was an accountant for many years and wasn't aware of him having financial difficulties, though it's possible Stephen Paddock could have had significant debts.  

According to casino industry consultant David Shepherd, who co-wrote a book on the topic called "Active Shooter--Preparing for and Responding to a Growing Threat," Paddock didn't meet any of the more than 50 characteristics of mass shooters. Shepherd also noted that technologies such as facial recognition software aren't as advanced as they appear to be in TV crime shows.

"This is the first multimillionaire active shooter that we have ever had," Shepherd said. "He had no reason for which to draw suspicion to him."

Minimizing the odds of weapons sneaking into mass events has led to many policies that aren't always appreciated. For instance, when the National Football League mandated in 2013 that people could bring only clear plastic bags to games, fans so were irate than an ESPN writer offered tongue-in-cheek tips on how to "beat" the ban.

In the years since then, however, mass murders at public venues have repeatedly shown that security at these events is no laughing matter.

"The question is what's the threat to which one needs to respond," said Steven Adelman, vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, a trade group. "We don't know which among the people who are surrounding us is armed, and of those people, how many of them are unstable or angry or have some agenda."

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.