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New campaign aims to prevent adults from leaving children unattended while gambling at casinos

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's new campaign, called "Don't Gamble With Kids," was spurred by concerns about children being left alone in casino parking lots

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the launch of a new awareness campaign aimed at stopping parents from leaving their children unattended while they gamble at casinos.

The “Don’t Gamble with Kids” campaign was spurred by the Board’s concern over the number of minors who are being left in vehicles in casino parking lots or in hotel rooms attached to or near a Pennsylvania casino, the Board said in a press release.

“We’ve seen unacceptable numbers of adults that have chosen to go into casinos and leave children unattended. Mostly in cars, but also in places like hotel rooms," said Doug Harbach from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Since the start of the year, the Board said, the Bureau of Casino Compliance has recorded 269 incidents involving 441 minors who were left unattended while one or more of the adults responsible for them chose to gamble in a casino. 

“The unfortunate thing is that we’re seeing a great deal of them, again, over 200 a year, that are 12 years old and under, and sometimes those include 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and even infants," said Harbach. 

This is compared to 171 incidents involving 279 minors in 2021, according to the Board.

“This has been an issue dating back to the opening of casinos in 2006," said Kevin O'Toole, executive director of the Gaming Control Board. "However, as the number of venues has increased and new types of gaming have been added, more incidents have been reported."

O’Toole says the unfortunate frequency of these dangerous events has led the Board to initiate an awareness program with two audiences in mind—those who are responsible for children in their care, and the general public visiting casinos.

“We are hopeful this campaign will raise awareness not only for those who gamble and are responsible for children, but also for the gaming public who we hope will be more diligent in looking out for children at risk," he said. "Ultimately, we want everyone to understand the scope of this problem and know what to do if confronted with a situation in a parking lot, hotel or elsewhere. That is, immediately report the situation to casino or hotel security, who have extensive training on how to appropriately respond.”

The Board also wants adult caregivers who may choose to leave a child unattended to enter a casino, to know of the potential consequences of their actions.

“There are severe consequences that can happen. that can range from low-end, and individual being banned by the casino where it happened or by the gaming control board where they can visit any of the 16 casinos in Pennsylvania. It also could lead to law enforcement stepping in, and having an arrest and turning this to family services," said Harbach.

These include:

  • Up to a lifetime ban by the individual casino in which the incident took place;
  • Placement on the Board’s publicly available Exclusion List, in which individuals lose the privileges of entering all casinos in the Commonwealth;
  • Criminal charges filed by law enforcement, and;
  • Investigation by the applicable county’s Department of Children and Youth Services.

“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.

“Leaving minors unattended in the parking lot or garage, a hotel, or other venue at a casino creates a potentially unsafe and dangerous environment for the children. In its role to protect the public, the Board hopes to bring awareness of this very important issue through the ‘Don’t Gamble with Kids’ campaign.”

The “Don’t Gamble with Kids” campaign will include television and radio public service announcements, social media posts and videos, printed materials, and a website, www.DontGamblewithKids.org.

“Number one is obviously those adults who may choose to make a bad decision and go into a casino and leave a child unattended, but we also want to make the public aware of this, especially those who go to casinos. Because they can be the eyes to look out for these things so if they see something, they need to say something," said Harbach.

The Board is also noting that adults who may choose to leave children unattended to gamble in a casino may be exhibiting signs of a compulsive gambling problem. 

To that end, there is a link on the campaign’s website that provides the individual with information on the Board’s compulsive and problem gambling program website, www.responsibleplay.pa.gov.

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