Sand Blast Organizer Claims Harrah’s Staff Was Homophobic to Gay Party Guests

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Behind all the fun pictures and hot bodies from last weekend’s Sand Blast event in Atlantic City, it appears that not all was quite as peachy as it seemed. There are claims that certain guests were the victims of verbal homophobia. A memo released yesterday by the event’s executive producer, Brad Hurtado, claims that staff at Harrah’s pool were anything but welcoming to gay guests.

Hurtado, who moved the Sand Blast event to Atlantic City from Asbury Park this year, released an email yesterday evening, stating that employees, namely security guards, at Harrah’s were completely inappropriate to Sand Blast guests. More from his memo:

From all accounts I heard the public was just fine with our guests, but sadly, it was the security staff at Harrah’s Pool that were the problem. Their aggressive behavior and homophobic comments to some of our guests really damaged what was a great day at Riptide and I won’t stand by and let them get away with it. […] There is no excuse for homophobia from a company that publicly professes a desire to welcome the gay community into their city and resorts, especially one that is hosting a gay event on their property. “

Hurtado claims he has spoken with Don Guardian, the gay mayor of Atlantic City, Jeff Guaracino, the out vice president of the Atlantic City Alliance and Larry Sieg, the out vice president of marketing for the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors’ Authority regarding the incident. He also plans on speaking with top-level management at Caesars Entertainment, the mother company of Harrah’s. He says he doesn’t want to comment on the actions they are taking at this time.

We’ve reached out to Harrah’s public relations for a statement regarding these accusations; at the time of this publication, we have not received any firm reply.  We will keep you updated as this story unfolds.

UPDATE [7/24/2014, 4:33PM]: We received a follow-up memo from Hurtado on Thursday, July 24.  It seems that, despite some comments received on our article that the Harrah’s staff appeared aggressive to gay participants at Sand Blast, Hurtado is closing the case for now.  He says, “After carefully investigating of these reports […],as well as speaking with Harrah’s top management and reviewing their security footage, I have reached the conclusion that while the security team was definitely an intimidating presence and seems to have treated our guests the way they did their usual straight and sometimes unruly guests, I am happy to report that there were no actual incidents of homophobic comments as were initially reported to me.”

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  • Hrh Mortimer

    I was there and Brad Hurtado is absolutely right. At the end of the event they were extremely rude to everyone, not giving anyone a chance to even finish a conversation, let alone collect their stuff to vacate the Pool area. It was very uncomfortable and I felt like they were far too aggressive. They even followed people around harassing them to get their stuff and leave, and were rude to those who didn’t have a chance to find their shirts and were in the lobby without them.

  • michael

    The year is 2014 what color is the sky in some peoples world?

  • Brian Martenis

    I would wonder how anyone in the hospitality business in Atlantic City would dare! Funny how AC is going under while Sugar House is expanding. Bad Karma perhaps?

  • Gambler

    This article doesn’t surprise me in the least. I’m a regular gambler at that establishment and I myself have experienced, first hand, rude and aggressive security personnel, so it’s not just a gay thing. If senior management for that company would look at this issue seriously, maybe they could start to weed out the bad apples. The majority of HARRAH’S security staff are good people and handle their jobs professionally. Unfortunately, when a number of your coworkers are bad apples it tends to tarnish the reputation of the entire staff.

  • philman

    So what this story consists of is: “Brad Hurtado says the staff at Harrahs were making homophobic comments.” A day later: “Brad Hurtado says, I’m happy to report that there were no actual incidents of homophobic comments.” Wouldn’t it make sense for G Philly (or Hurtado himself) to investigate the claims before just posting it as “news”? This is becoming all too frequent at G Philly. You should realize that despite all the retractions, the initial accusation, presented with no proof at all, is detrimental.