MANILA • Serious security lapses at a Philippine casino contributed to the deaths of 37 people when an assailant set fire to gaming rooms, the industry regulator said yesterday as it suspended the operator's licence.
The armed attacker, identified by police as gambling addict Jessie Javier Carlos, entered the Resorts World Manila (RWM) casino and hotel complex on June 2 with an M4 automatic rifle and a bottle of petrol.
He set alight a number of different rooms at the complex, claiming the lives of 37 people who police said died after becoming trapped in the fires. Dozens more were injured in a stampede to escape.
Gaming regulator Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation said yesterday it had suspended the casino and gaming licence of Travellers International Hotel Group, owner and operator of RWM. Shares in Travellers have dropped 2.5 per cent since June 2. They hit an all-time low of 2.9 pesos this week.
"The said suspension will remain until RWM rectifies its serious security lapses and deficiencies, which caused not only the loss of lives and damaged properties, but also placed the Philippine gaming, tourism and hospitality industries in a bad light," the statement said.
The gunman was caught on closed-circuit TV camera footage stealing casino chips worth 113 million pesos (S$3.2 million) from a storage room before he was later found by security officers, who shot and wounded him during an exchange of fire.
Carlos, 43, was found dead in a hotel room that was part of the complex, about five hours after initially entering the casino. Police said he committed suicide by setting fire to himself.
Lawmakers this week slammed the casino management for alleged lax security at the complex and questioned the competence of its security chief.
A widely circulated security video showed the attacker easily gaining entry into the complex despite having an assault rifle.
Releasing the initial findings of a probe to determine the administrative liability of NC Lanting Security Specialist Agency, which provided guards for RWM, the police said there was "no emergency response team" that could have prevented Carlos from wreaking havoc.
Mr Jose Mario Espino, head of the Philippine National Police-Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies, also noted the lack of personnel working on night shifts, saying there was only one guard posted at the casino entrance.
"The guards on duty at the time were really for fixed posts at the parking area, the entrance and exits and one roving guard for the whole mall area," Mr Espino said. "So when you ask for a quick reaction team, they did not know who will run because they have their own posts to secure."
Other resorts, malls and hotels are now required to submit security plans to the police.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK