Pennsylvania regulator to combat ‘dangerous’ rise in unattended children

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has launched an awareness campaign aimed at preventing children from being left unattended while an adult supervisor gambles in a casino.

This follows a wave of action being taken by the regulator regarding such issues, with seven adults placed on the state’s exclusion list yesterday after a total of 13 children, aged between one and 15, were left unattended for between six minutes and seven hours in order to gamble.

The regulator emphasised that the ‘Don’t Gamble with Kids’ campaign has been developed due to 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.

“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,” said Kevin O’Toole, Gaming Control Board Executive Director. 

He added that the “unfortunate frequency of these dangerous events” has led to the regulator initiating an awareness program for 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 added.

“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.”

In addition, the PGCB has also issued a warning regarding the potential consequences of such actions, which can include a lifetime ban from gaming venues, placement on the aforementioned exclusion list, criminal charges being filed or investigation by the applicable county’s Department of Children and Youth Service

“More important than any liability faced by these adults, however, is the safety of these children,” O’Toole stated.

“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.”

Adding: “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.

Since the start of 2022, the board’s 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. Included in the number are 68 who were six years old or under. This is compared to 171 incidents involving 279 minors in 2021.