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How to Fight the Human Trafficking at Casinos

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Human trafficking is the buying and selling of human beings against their will. The humans are viewed as “slaves” that provide cheap labor, sexual services, or even internal organs for the purpose of medical transplants. In a casino setting, the risk of trafficking is elevated. Because of the elevated risk, some casino officials across the United States are trained to spot the victims of human trafficking in their work setting. A recent documentary on the sex trafficking problem in Nevada has helped officials expose the problem to the public. Some casino patrons are surprised to learn that this phenomenon could be occurring around them. They do not understand why such a crime would happen at a casino. Furthermore, they wonder what they can do to help combat it.

Estimation of people trafficked in US
Estimation of people trafficked in US

Why Human Trafficking Occurs at Casinos

Dr. Celia Williamson (University of Toledo)
Dr. Celia Williamson (Toledo University)

Casinos are not the only places where human trafficking occurs, but they do set the stage for a potential crime to occur. Dr. Celia Williamson, University of Toledo professor, explained why sexual trafficking can happen in a gambling setting. “Casinos . . . bring men . . . with lots of money in their pocket . . . who are wanting to have a good time.”

Williamson said that sporting events and conventions also serve as prime settings for the crime to occur. The “demand” for sexual services can be greater at casinos, sporting events, and conventions, says Williamson. The pimps who “sell” these services seek out certain situations in order to make a profit. According to the professor, it is all a matter of “supply and demand.”

What to Look Out For

Casino employees are sometimes in a position to help. Because they're so close to the situation, they can be on the lookout for suspicious behavior associated with human trafficking. Williamson advises casino employees to watch for the following:

  • Couples in which one person seems extremely submissive and the other seems extremely controlling
  • A young girl with an older “boyfriend”
  • A young girl in cheap clothing who dons expensive jewelry or electronic accessories, such as an iPhone

The Prevalence of Human Trafficking Across the World

Because trafficking victims exist below the radar of law enforcement, it is impossible to know exactly how many people have fallen prey to it. An estimate from the U.S. State Department suggests that over 12 million men, women, and children are the victims of trafficking across the globe. The department believes that only about .04 percent of all trafficking victims have been identified. Because the victims are hidden away from the rest of society, the exact number remains a mystery.

Human Trafficking infographic
Human Trafficking infographic

In the past four months alone, some significant arrests have occurred in the realm of human trafficking in the U.S. Some arrests were casino-related; others were not:

Prostitution Arrests at Clearwater Casino in Washington

Last October, eight female prostitutes and one male were arrested in conjunction with a prostitution ring at the Clearwater Casino in Suquamish, Washington. The Suquamish tribe helped authorities conduct the sting operation which led to the arrests. Deputy Scott Wilson said it wasn't clear if any of the women had been forced into prostitution as adolescents. He did indicate that this type of criminal activity seems to be occurring “more frequently (than it) used to.”

Rhode Island Woman Charged With Trafficking at Connecticut Casino

Last December, a 24-year-old woman was arrested at the Two Trees Inn at Foxwoods Casino for her involvement with human trafficking and the promotion of prostitution. A 16-year-old female victim was rescued after the Mashantucket Pequot tribal police collaborated with the FBI on an investigation at the Foxwoods. The investigation came about because of a tip alluding to the pervasive use of prostitution websites at the hotel. William Dittman, the chief of the Mashantucket police, said he was “sure (the prostitution) didn't develop here, but it led here.” Dittman said he believed this situation was an isolated event.

Super Bowl Arrests Made

Just this month, 16 juveniles between the ages of 13-17 were rescued from a child sex trafficking ring at the Super Bowl. Over 45 pimps were arrested for their involvement in the ring. The group traveled to the Super Bowl in anticipation of the increased “demand” described by Williamson. Ron Hosko, a director of the FBI's Criminal Investigation Division, called the Super Bowl a “high-profile special event” that provides “lucrative opportunities for child prosititution criminal enterprises.”

How the Public Can Help

Concerned citizens can help combat human trafficking by staying vigilant when they visit casinos, sporting events, and other large gatherings. If human trafficking is suspected, it should be reported to authorities. According to, these are some signs to watch for:

  • People who exhibit signs of malnutrition and/or dehydration
  • People who have broken bones, bruises, and other signs of physical trauma
  • People with symptoms of critical, untreated illnesses such as diabetes and cancer
  • People with poor hygiene
  • People who are not free to leave their work site
  • People who cannot produce ID or travel documents
  • People who exhibit other signs of physical or sexual abuse
  • People from other countries who are accompanied by a guardian who acts as a “translator”

In addition to casinos and sporting events, victims of trafficking are sometimes found at the following places:

  • Massage parlors
  • Modeling studios
  • Bars and strip clubs
  • Sweatshops
  • Fields, farms, and canneries
  • Construction sites
  • Restaurants
  • Places that are heavily guarded, have bars on windows, etc.

In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) oversees human trafficking investigations. Casino patrons and others who suspect human trafficking can use the following resources to find out more information and file a report:

Toll-free number: 1-866-347-2423

International number: 1-802-872-6199


National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC): 1-888-3737-888 (This is not a law enforcement agency, but is a resource for obtaining additional help.)


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