Underage gambling is a serious issue, and so are the consequences of allowing it to happen at casinos. Mount Airy Casino recently learned that lesson the hard way and was fined $160,000 for three incidents involving slot machine play by people under 21 years of age.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board called two “egregious and extreme.” They involved an 11-year-old girl and a pair of 13-year-old twins, both joining a parent on the gaming floor and playing slots for extended periods.
In the case of the 11-year-old, the parent went and played at another machine on the gaming floor, allowing the child to continue playing without supervision.
On top of that, Mount Airy received another $100K fine for failing to file 32 corporate renewal applications. The pair of penalties totaled more than $250,000.
Underage incidents are “not the norm” at Mount Airy or statewide
Per Pennsylvania state law, all patrons within a casino must be at least 21 years old. For other onsite businesses such as restaurants, minors require a security escort (with their family) to and from the restaurant.
Josh Ercole, Executive Director of the Council of Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania, said that the Council focuses a lot on educating casinos and casino employees on a wide range of problematic gambling issues, including underage gambling. Things can change yearly, and the Council appropriately updates casinos and communities on all policies.
Ercole said the situation at Mount Airy was “not the norm,” saying an incident of that magnitude was unprecedented.
“To look at that as an isolated incident is probably pretty accurate to what happened because, certainly, there are policies in place to prevent that from happening. From experience, the work done at Mount Airy, they do go to lengths to try to minimize folks from being able to access the [gaming] area. Unfortunately, we find that things happen and situations occur, which obviously don’t go unnoticed.”
During the PGCB hearing, Mount Airy executive director of security, Lianne Asbury, said that the casino has turned away over 328,000 underage people since 2009.
What can parents do to identify the risks of underage gambling
According to Ercole, activities such as buying a kid a lottery ticket for their birthday or even playing video games have gambling elements that help normalize gambling in society.
Furthermore, data suggests that younger adults are more prone to irresponsible gambling behaviors. Thus, Ercole said their approach to these factors is to try and educate parents because as gambling becomes more normalized, we also risk losing awareness of potential problems and the resources towards helping or preventing gambling-related problems.
There are risks involved with gambling, and Ercole stressed that parents need to be aware that kids are learning these behaviors.
Many will have no problems as they grow up choosing to gamble responsibly or abstain. But understanding the level gambling is intertwined in our society today can help parents identify behaviors that could lead to compulsive gambling problems down the road.
Problem gambling resources
The Council of Compulsive Gambling of PA operates the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline within the state, which is available 24/7. The website also has a helpline, a chat and text feature that can refer people to additional resources such as counselors, meetings or other gambling treatment services.
Other resources such as online meetings, downloadable items, educational material, and ways to set limits and self-exclude are also available.
Additional problem gambling resources include:
- National Council on Problem Gambling
- Gamblers Anonymous
- PGCB Self-Exclusion Program
Lead image by Katie Kohler