Holiday crowds bring new items to casino’s Lost and Found |

Holiday crowds bring new items to casino’s Lost and Found

Dentures, glasses, scarves, coats and a box of car keys that would fill a parking lot make it the giving and receiving season at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, with Pauline Winberg playing Santa Claus.

“On the holidays, it’s chaos,” said the Lost and Found Department coordinator for Harrah’s, Harveys and Bill’s casinos.

Winberg wonders how some people function without some necessities in life. She says this, while pulling out a box of glasses with cases that could match any outfit.

Watches, keys, glasses and jewelry fill boxes stacked in a closet. Clothes are hung more neatly than in many people’s closets.

With the help of security, Winberg collects an average of about 25 items a day on the weekends. The department takes in about three items a day on the weekdays.

One of the most puzzling items, dentures are often unretrieved.

Two years ago, $5,000 in cash was found in an envelope on the casino floor.

Winberg manages a special place for valuables. Money goes in a locked safe behind a locked door.

On Sunday mornings, more items have been picked up from Harrah’s since the Altitude nightclub opened. Winberg could run a retail outlet with the number of coats and sweaters collected.

The mother and grandmother in her tries to refrain from scolding some people for going out in the cold. Instead, she’ll urge people to label their belongings.

Winberg approaches her job of 12 years with a mission and zeal that has made her friends from all over the country.

“When somebody gets what they’ve lost, that’s so rewarding. And they’re so happy to get it,” she said. “It’s always so interesting with the lost and found. You get to meet people.”

She recalled a Bay Area man distraught over losing his wife’s gold bracelet he bought for her as an anniversary present. Winberg urged the man to recount his steps and narrowed the area where it was last seen — the swimming pool lounge. The bracelet was found in the pool.

“He was so grateful,” she said.

“The nicest things they do for me is they call me and leave messages on my voice mail,” she said. “I’d be walking on the (casino) floor, and people grab me and say: ‘I remember you. You gave me my glasses.'”

Those who drop in on her cubby-hole room near the transit center entrance are treated to more than their recovered items. Winberg gives out candy from a basket and Beanie Babies to children.

A thorough filing system that checks items in and out of the system indicates every lost object for a year. Items are tagged by location and categorized by location from the three properties.

When asked if Winberg is detailed oriented, Harrah’s Security and Surveillance Director Bob Kortan nods the affirmative.

“She goes to the end of the Earth to find these people,” Kortan said.

Items unclaimed for 30 days are donated to a number of service organizations. They include: the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, Senior Center, Christmas Cheer, Family Support Counseling in Gardnerville and the Veteran’s Hospital in Reno.

The VA holds a special place in Winberg’s heart. When she accompanied her late husband there to register at the hospital, she became emotional at seeing the vets standing in line waiting for clothes.

“I was moved to tears,” she said.

Winberg, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, vowed to one day help the needy.

As part of Harrah’s employee assistance program, some lost items are bid on by staffers through the “People Power” program. The money is channeled into a fund earmarked for employees in need.

When she started, Winberg asked to work the graveyard shift because she didn’t want to be alone at night. The company granted her request. She now works the 1 to 9 p.m. shift.

— Reporter Susan Wood’s camera was found and put in the good hands of Pauline Winberg. Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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