The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Wednesday announced the launch of “Don’t Gamble with Kids,” a program designed to prevent children from being left unattended when a parent, guardian, or relative gambles in a casino.
Since the start of 2022, the PCGB’s Bureau of Casino Compliance has recorded 269 incidents involving 441 minors – including 68 under the age of 6 — left unattended while one or more adults gambled in a casino. Children have been left in vehicles in casino parking lots and in hotel rooms attached to casinos.
In 2021, there were 171 incidents involving 279 minors.
“This has been an issue dating back to the opening of casinos in 2006,” said PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole in a statement. “However, as the number of venues has increased and new types of gaming have been added, more incidents have been reported.”
O’Toole said the frequency of such incidents spurred the PGCB to launch the “Don’t Gamble with Kids” program, which is directed to both caregivers and casino patrons.
The announcement comes the same day that the PGCB acted on petitions to ban seven adults from all casinos in the Commonwealth for leaving a total of 13 children unattended in order to gamble. The incidents occurred at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack, Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie.
“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,” O’Toole 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.”
Penalties for leaving children unattended may include:
- Possible lifetime bans by casinos where incidents occur
- Placement on the PGCB’s publicly available Exclusion List that denies individual entrance into all casinos in the Commonwealth
- Criminal charges filed by law enforcement
- 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.
The PGCB also notes that adults who may choose to children unattended to gamble in a casino may be exhibiting signs of a compulsive gambling problem. A link on the campaign’s website provides information about the PGCB’s compulsive and problem gambling program website, www.responsibleplay.pa.gov.