The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board banned two casino employees and five other adults from all PA casinos this week for leaving a total of nine children unattended at gambling facilities.
In the latest round of offenses, children as young as 14 months were left unattended while their parents entered a casino. The longest a child was left was for 28 minutes.
Leaving a child alone in a vehicle or at a casino is against the law, and PA casinos continue to deal with the issue month after month. In the PGCB’s latest meeting on Wednesday, June 28, the seven casino patrons were added to the state’s Involuntary Exclusion List. Only one of them faced criminal charges for their misstep.
More Pennsylvania casino guests leave children unattended
The following casino patrons (and employees) were placed on the Involuntary Exclusion List this month. Names have been shortened to first and last initials.
- Mohegan Pennsylvania patron KJ left a “young child” alone for 28 minutes while he went to a sports betting kiosk to place wagers. The patron was permanently evicted from the casino upon the discovery. No criminal charges were filed.
- AL and KL, both employees of Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino, left a 14-month-old child in a vehicle in the parking garage for 10 minutes while they entered employee areas of the casino. They were both terminated by Harrah’s. No criminal charges were filed.
- Valley Forge Casino patron, SA, attempted to enter the casino after leaving a 2-year-old child behind in a vehicle. Surveillance was already on the case, and he was denied entry. The child was alone for two minutes, and the police filed criminal charges. The patron was also banned for life from Valley Forge.
- Rivers Philadelphia patron, SJ, faced a lifetime ban from the casino after leaving two children, aged six and 11, in a vehicle for five minutes while he visited the main cage. No criminal charges were filed.
- Another patron of Rivers Philadelphia, JM, left a 13 and three-year-old in a vehicle for nine minutes while he gambled at the sportsbook. No criminal charges were filed.
- At Rivers Pittsburgh, patron DW left a seven and five-year-old in a vehicle for 14 minutes while gambling at the sportsbook. DW did not face criminal charges.
PGCB responded to record number of incidents at PA casinos last year
Last year, the PGCB reported 303 incidents involving 486 minors being left unsupervised while parents gambled. That number was a record high for PA casinos.
In response to the growing problem, the PGCB launched awareness campaigns last year aimed at parents, reminding them not to gamble with their kids’ safety. The “Don’t Gamble With Kids” messaging reaches gamblers through TV, radio, social media, print ads and online.
Casino security and surveillance teams have heightened their awareness on the issue since last year, and are trained to spot the problems as they occur. PA casinos also post signage at entrances reminding patrons of the potential consequences of leaving a child behind.
Still, some casino visitors make the avoidable and risky mistake anyway.
Are the consequences for leaving children unattended steep enough?
The frequency of incidents does seem to be down this year to a relative few. The fact that legal repercussions aren’t applied consistently in these cases has been raised at previous board meetings. In other words, offenders aren’t always criminally charged.
In fact, in most cases they are not. Police seem to be mostly leaving enforcement to the PGCB, which has taken a no-tolerance approach. That’s how things will likely continue, as long as the board has a handle on the issue.
A major uptick in incidents could see a stronger response from the state’s law enforcement.