For decades, casinos have expanded their range of amenities and employed various marketing strategies in order to make them more family friendly destinations.
While this has undoubtedly worked to some extent thanks to the advent of arcades, bowling alleys, movie theaters and other attractions, it has also resulted in some undesirable side effects, most notably a rising rate of incidents in which children are left unattended while their parents or supervisors go off to gamble.
To help combat the issue, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has launched a new awareness campaign this holiday season titled “Don’t Gamble with Kids,” which will include public service announcements for TV and radio, as well as printed materials, social media posts and a website by the same name (www.DontGamblewithKids.org).
Part of the inspiration for the campaign was the troubling data surrounding instances of unattended children in and around the state’s casinos. According to the PGCB’s Board of Casino Compliance, there have been 269 reported incidents thus far this year involving a total of 441 minors, 68 of which were 6 years old or younger.
This is especially troubling when you consider that there were 171 such incidents reported for all of 2021, involving 279 minors.
Kevin O’Toole, executive director of the PGCB, said that the materials will be marketed towards both the general public and parents or supervisors who may frequent casinos with children accompanying them.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
It’s never a good idea to leave young children unattended for long periods in any setting, but casinos can be especially dangerous given their adult clientele as well as the potential access to smoking and alcohol. One of the biggest reasons for forming the campaign, the PGCB said, was to remind patrons that failure to properly supervise minors can result in a wide range of consequences, including but not limited to:
- A potential ban from the casino in question, with some cases resulting in lifetime bans;
- Full-on exclusion from the PGCB, in which offenders are barred from entering any state casinos;
- Grievances filed to the county’s Department of Children and Youth Services; and
- Criminal charges, including child neglect or endangerment.
“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,” added O’Toole. “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 issue is especially important during the holiday season, as casinos around the country typically experience an influx in business from tourists as well as local families who may be visiting the casino for other amenities such as restaurants or entertainment venues.
Additionally, the PGCB is also emphasizing the point that anyone who may opt to leave a child unattended in order to gamble is likely exhibiting signs of problem gambling. In such cases, it is important to get help and utilize the range of services available for your jurisdiction—for Pennsylvania residents, more information can be found at the state’s website, www.responsibleplay.pa.gov.