CBS 21: New ‘Don’t Gamble with Kids’ campaign takes aim at growing problem at PA casinos

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa— The number of kids being left in cars outside of Pennsylvania casinos has nearly doubled in 2022 compared to 2021.

Data from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board shows since the start of 2022, there has been 269 incidents involving 441 minors, with 68 under the age of six, left unattended in the car while their caregiver was gambling inside a Pennsylvania casino. That’s up from last year’s 279 minors left in cars outside casinos across the state.

In an effort to curb those statistics, the Gaming Control Board has launched a new campaign, “Don’t Gamble with Kids.”

Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) is the state’s leader in child abuse prevention. President and CEO of the nonprofit group, Angela Liddle, said the near 70 children under the age of six left in cars is “very concerning.”

She said she can make assumptions on why those numbers have gone up.

“You know, it’s not been a great economic time for people. There may be parents who are feeling they’re in pretty desperate financial situations and they’re turning to gambling,” Liddle said. “It could be that there’s a gambling addiction, and we know that people who have addictions found the pandemic and COVID-19 to be a particularly challenging time as well.”

However, the Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the increase doesn’t reflect higher numbers of gamblers, but rather a more concentrated focus on the issue.

“The early part of 2021 through the tail end of 2021, we went around to every casino. We reviewed their existing procedures. We gave them a directive to improve those procedures,” O’Toole said. “They’re finding more of these incidences.”

CBS 21 reached out to casinos across the state to learn more about the issue of children being left in cars, as well as the impact regarding the “Don’t Gamble With Kids” campaign.

Hollywood Casinos at Penn National Race Course said in a statement:

“We work to ensure patrons do not leave minors unattended- inside or outside of our casino. In addition to signage posted throughout our facility, and regular patrols in our parking lot, our team members are trained to report unattended children to our security staff and keep them safe until help arrives.”

CBS 21 didn’t hear back from other casinos ranging from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

The consequences for leaving a child in the car while gambling can range from eviction from the casino or an arrest.

However, both the Gaming Control Board and PFSA said education and awareness are the most important pieces when it comes to prevention.

“What we really need to get to is: ‘what’s the reason they’re doing that’? It speaks to them needing some services, some help, and some support” Liddle said.

If you see a child in a car at a casino, call 911 or tell casino security. If you need help with a gambling problem, you can dial the national hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

From CBS 21, November 17, 2022

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