Crimebusters at Broward casinos

The opening of the casinos has meant a coordinated effort between casino security and state and local law enforcement agencies.

As eager gamblers wandered onto the casino floor Wednesday afternoon, making their way among the rows of brightly lit slot machines, Michael Mann stood back away from the gaming action.

It was opening day Wednesday at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino, and the unveiling of the first Las Vegas-style slot machines in Florida.

And Mann had spent the past year preparing for this day — traveling to New Jersey to take classes and getting advice from police agencies across the country.

“My guys are more than ready,“ said Mann, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement assistant special agent in charge. „We’ve really had the benefit of talking to other jurisdictions and training with other jurisdictions on how this all works.“

The opening of the casinos has meant a coordinated effort between state and local law enforcement agencies and casino security to ensure the safety and protect the integrity of the games.

FDLE hired 39 people to work in gaming, with 28 people working locally.

The Hallandale Beach Police Department is also in the process of hiring, with plans to add 10 more officers to help handle the city’s two parimutuels — Gulfstream Park and Mardi Gras Racetrack & Gaming Center. Two officers are assigned to the FDLE task force.

Mardi Gras tapped into the police department’s expertise, hiring two of the department’s brass to head the casino’s security team.

FDLE will have offices at each of the parimutuels, conducting background checks for gaming licenses and monitoring the casino floor.

The agents can override the casinos camera system to watch the machines without security knowing what they’re looking at, Mann said. “A lot of it is new to us, but a lot of law enforcement, no matter what venue you take, the crimes are the same,“ Mann said. „We know how to investigate crime, period. We’re here to make sure the integrity of the game is intact.“

Mann has spoken with more than a dozen law enforcement jurisdictions where casinos have opened and they’ve warned of groups trying to cheat the slot machines. Some come within a few days of casino openings, scoping out the floor and testing the casino’s system.

“What we’ve learned to expect is to be tested by slot cheats,“ Mann said.

Hallandale police also have looked to out-of-town law enforcement for advice and consulted the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood.

“We’re ready for problems that could happen, but I don’t think we’ll have that many,“ said Jim Kirchoff, an assistant police chief in Hallandale Beach.

While the police department focuses on patrolling outside the casino, an off-duty detail officer working on-site stepped in on Wednesday to help a big jackpot winner.

“They escorted the winner out to the vehicle,“ Kirchoff said. „We just wanted to make sure there were no problems.“

Another law enforcement concern: how everyone will get in and out of the facility.

“We think traffic is going to be more of an issue than crime,“ Kirchoff said.