Gambling in Pennsylvania: Too many kids left alone while their parents play
State gaming officials announced a plan Wednesday to protect children from degenerate parents who put their kids at risk while they get their gambling fix.
The “Don’t Gamble with Kids” campaign was prompted by the alarming number of children who have been abandoned in cars and hotel rooms at or near casinos, including Wind Creek Bethlehem, while mom and dad play.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board deserves credit for trying to do something about this big problem, which I wrote about last month.
I wish, though, that the board’s campaign would be more aggressive.
So far this year, 441 children were left alone, including 68 who were 6-years-old or younger. That’s an increase of 58% from the 279 children found unattended last year, the board said Wednesday.
And we still have a month and a half to go in the year. Plus, those figures represent only those who got caught. It’s safe to assume that some got away with their crime.
That’s what leaving a young child alone is in a car in a parking garage — a crime. And their child is the victim. Don’t parents understand that?
Some have ended up in jail or on probation after authorities charged them with child endangerment.
The campaign announced by the Gaming Control Board on Wednesday includes television and radio commercials; social media posts and videos; printed materials that will be posted at casinos; and a website, DontGamblewithKids.org.
I wonder, though, if the state’s efforts are too tame.
One video shows a boy, perhaps kindergarten age, sitting alone in a hotel room. Another shows a girl, perhaps elementary school age, sitting alone in a car in a dark parking lot, and then wandering the lot.
How about a commercial showing a child watching daddy or mommy get handcuffed and tossed in the back of a police car?
Every gambler who leaves a young child alone in a casino garage or hotel should face criminal charges. There should be no exceptions.
Too much can go wrong.
To illustrate that, how about a commercial showing a child left alone in a hotel room falling off a bed?
That might be difficult for some people to see. But that’s what they need to see, because that’s what can happen when young kids don’t have adult supervision.
The Gaming Control Board hopes the new warnings will be heeded by another audience, too. It wants to alert casino patrons about this problem, so they can alert authorities if they see an unattended child.
“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,” board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said in a statement Wednesday.
I’ll repeat what I said about this problem last month. It’s inexcusable because there is no need for it.
You don’t have to go to a casino to gamble.
There are 14 online sports wagering options and 22 online casino game sites licensed in Pennsylvania. Many of them, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, offer both sports and casino gaming.
Moms and dads can play poker, blackjack and slots, or bet on football or basketball, from their living room with their kids snuggling safely next to them on the couch.
It’s hard to imagine people don’t know that. Television ads for online gaming sites are almost as frequent and annoying as .
Some parents may not worry about being arrested for leaving their children alone. But maybe they will care about other potential consequences.
Offenders might have to explain their poor parenting to the county Department of Children and Youth Services, which has the power to remove children from homes considered to be dangerous.
Offenders also can be banned for life from every casino in Pennsylvania.
That ban comes with negative publicity. Those who are banished have their name and photo posted online for the world to see, on the Gaming Control Board’s involuntary exclusion list.
How would you explain that to a potential employer, or your latest love interest, who looks you up on Google?
There’s too much at stake for everyone involved, especially the kids, when this happens.
I hope the Gaming Control Board’s plan works. I hope gamblers who see the new warnings, and have considered leaving their kids alone so they can gamble, will reconsider.
And if they’ve gotten away with it in the past, I hope they will pledge to never do it again.