The increasing number of incidents where adults leave children alone — often in cars or hotel rooms — at casinos has led to Pennsylvania officials to launch an awareness campaign.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) initiative — called “Don’t Gamble with Kids” — is aimed at those adults who enter the casino while a child is left alone.
The “Don’t Gamble with Kids” campaign will include television and radio ads, social media posts and videos, printed materials, and a website, www.DontGamblewithKids.org.
So far this year, the PGCB’s Bureau of Casino Compliance saw 269 incidents involving 441 minors who were left unattended while one or more of the adults responsible for them gambled in a Pennsylvania casino.
Among these are 68 kids who are six-years-old or younger. Last year, there were 171 incidents involving 279 minors.
This has been an issue dating back to the opening of casinos in 2006. However, as the number of venues has increased and new types of gaming have been added, more incidents have been reported,” PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said in a statement.
Beyond the adults who are responsible for the children, the campaign also wants to highlight the issue for the general public at casinos, so they are more diligent in “looking out for children,” O’Toole said.
Passersby need to immediately report any unattended minor at casinos to gaming property or hotel security staff, O’Toole added.
Adults responsible for the supervision of a child who leave the child unattended face numerous consequences, the PGCB warns.
These include a ban by the casino where the incident occurred. The adult can also get named to the PGCB publicly available exclusion list. That leads to a ban that will keep the adult from entering any Pennsylvania casinos.
Pennsylvania’s Involuntary Exclusion List contains hundreds of names of people who are no longer allowed to enter the state’s casinos. Of those individuals, 133 were included for leaving children unattended.
The adult can also face criminal charges. They can lead to jail sentences and fines.
The Department of Children and Youth Services can also launch an investigation which can lead to removing children from households.
More important than any liability faced by these adults, however, is the safety of these children,” O’Toole said. “The welfare and safety of the minors is at the heart of the Board’s campaign, and all adults should consider this before deciding to leave a child unattended.”
In recent years, adults accused of leaving children unattended at Pennsylvania casinos were highlighted in media reports.
For instance in January, the PGCB voted to ban people from Pennsylvania’s casinos. They gambled while leaving one or more kids unattended.
One of these individuals, Michael Glenn, left his two children, ages 10 and 11, in a vehicle in the parking lot of Rivers Casino Philadelphia while he went into the casino, authorities said.
Security guards discovered the kids about 20 minutes after Glenn went into the casino to place sports bets.
Rivers Casino officials permanently banned Glenn from the casino.
Also, Shanae Howard left her five-year-old child in a car in the Rivers Philadelphia lot. The child was in the car for about 30 minutes before security guards responded to the car.
Howard went inside the casino to play a slot machine. She was banned from the casino and as of January charges were pending against her, the PGCB said.
In addition, Zachary Bohinski was placed on the list after he left a three-year-old and a one-year-old in a running car at the Live! Casino Pittsburgh for nearly a half-hour while he ordered nachos and played slots.
State police charged Bohinski, identified as a pastor, with two counts of child endangerment. He, too, was permanently banned from the casino.
It is unclear how criminal charges were adjudicated in court.
Under state law, if a child cannot open a vehicle’s door, police officers can force open the car or truck to let child reach freedom. Civilians under certain circumstances can break into vehicles to rescue children, too.
In another situation, Edwin Reyes left a five-year-old in a room at Mount Airy Casino Resort for more than two hours one night. Reyes went to the casino and then returned to the room.
He could not find the child. He then went to the front desk, to report a missing child. Soon, Reyes returned and told authorities the child had been sleeping in bed under the covers.
But Reyes was still charged. He pled guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
Some casinos have started taking extra steps to keep children safe. Last November, Boyd Gaming said it would install infrared cameras at its Valley Forge Casino Resort to help monitor for unattended children.
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