Say you've just won a huge slots jackpot or a poker game at a local casino and you're jumping up and down with excitement. If you're like many people these days, you grab your camera phone and start taking selfies.
But suddenly, a big security guard walks up and demands you delete them. He even stands over you and says he'll watch.
You get jarred out of celebrating. It can be intimidating.
But that's the policy at many casinos.
And it happened to me in February when I got busted at the Casino at Dania Beach (301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach, 954-920-1511, CasinoDaniaBeach.com). I wasn't celebrating a win but was shooting images in case I ever needed them for this column. I wasn't photographing people, just the renovated casino floor, which was largely empty that afternoon.
But soon enough, a guard hurried up and demanded I delete them. I asked why, and he said photos and videos were forbidden. I asked why, and he said that was the policy. When I asked why that was the policy, he shrugged. He just repeated that he needed to watch me delete them. So I did.
And he looked into my device the whole time.
Over the next months, I spoke with executives at several casinos while trying to understand the policy that many share.
And I'm still confused.
Besides being tough to enforce since virtually everyone carries a camera and awkward for visitors who have no idea this archaic policy exists, it can be self-contradictory. Some horse races are broadcast across the country, with bettors in the grandstands, horse and dog races are simulcast for outsiders to see and big poker tournaments are televised on cable.
So before you take out your camera, the best bet is to know what your gambling venue requires.
"Our policy is no photos inside the casino," says Roderick Baldwin, the director of security for Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino (901 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, 954-454-7000, GulfstreamPark.com).
Gulfstream is a racino, which means it has a pari-mutuel (horse racing) and casino.
"Selfies are not allowed," he adds. "When a person is seen taking a photo, a security guard approaches them and asks they delete the photo, especially if the photo contains another patron or slot machine information. The level of punishment is a case-by-case situation. Most instances, the patron was unaware photos were not allowed."
"Photos are not allowed because people expect a level of privacy," he says.
Sandra Rodriguez is spokeswoman for the Casino at Dania Beach and Magic City Casino (450 NW 37th Ave., Miami, 305-649-3000, MagicCityCasino.com). According to her, "The official policy is no photos/videos anywhere inside the casino floor at both venues. The performance venues and jai-alai fronton are more flexible."
Palm Beach Kennel Club (1111 N. Congress Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-683-2222, PBKennelClub.com) publicity director, Theresa Hume, says of its poker room, "We have no specific rule. But the industry standard is no photos, due to the possibility of compromising the game. So we basically will let players take an occasional photo and monitor all activity on the floor. If someone objects to getting their photo taken, their wish will be accommodated."
And at Calder Casino (21001 NW 27th Ave., Miami Gardens, 305-625-1311, CalderCasino.com), visitors are allowed to take selfies and have a spouse or other close person photograph them, according to spokesman Matt Harper.
"It's subjective," he says. "We allow people taking pictures of themselves, but draw the line at machines being fixed or back-of-house places."
Unfortunately, representatives from other South Florida casinos would not comment publicly.
Privately, one tells me, "It's a little taboo, so we don't usually discuss security/surveillance procedures."
Another says, "We kindly pass on this one. There are many ins and outs that make a policy and that change a policy."
Interestingly, some occasionally post photos of winners on social media. Seminole Classic Casino (4150 N. State Road 7, Hollywood, 954-961-3220, SeminoleClassicCasino.com) recently posted a photo and first name of a bingo winner on its Facebook page. And the Isle Casino Racing (777 Isle of Capri Circle, Pompano Beach, 954-972-2000, TheIslePompanoPark.com) Facebook page shows close-ups of poker and slots winners.
So policies vary, and some remain deliberately secret. Casino selfie-taker, beware.
Says Hollywood resident Steve Bourie, who publishes "American Casino Guide" and worked at the old Dania Jai-Alai for 15 years as marketing director, "I have been gambling in casinos for 45 years and I think there was more of a stigma to being a gambler many years ago, but the [no photography] rule is still in effect."
So I have to ask, "Is there really still a stigma to gambling in South Florida?"