The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 4, 2013

Pennsylvania casinos urged to crack down on young gamblers

PITTSBURGH — Children as young as 14 are sneaking into casinos to try their luck at a roulette wheel or slot machine — a costly problem for Pennsylvania gaming operators who are lobbying for tougher penalties for underage gamblers. 
Robert DeSalvio, president of the Sands Casino-Resort in Bethlehem, said the punishment for anyone younger than 21 who attempts to gamble in a casino should act as a deterrent. 
Underage gamblers receive a citation and fine of as much as $1,000, but DeSalvio wants to take away their driver’s licenses for a year. 
“We feel so strongly about it,” said Sands spokeswoman Julia Corwin. “We want to do everything in our power to end underage gambling in the casinos.” 
Doug Harbach, spokesman for the state Gaming Control Board, said underage gambling is a “pretty big issue” at the state’s 12 casinos. Since 2008, the board has fined casinos more than $1.6 million for 127 incidents of underage gambling, records show. The incidents included children as young as 14 caught playing slot machines. 
At board meetings, members routinely vote to add underage wagerers to the agency’s “involuntary exclusion list” of people who are banned from the casinos. 
Casinos use cutting-edge facial recognition software and surveillance equipment so sophisticated it can peer into a woman’s purse. They check IDs, but offenders still slip through. 
Pittsburgh attorney Stuart Kaplan, who has worked on various gaming-related matters, said tighter security at the front door — including scanning IDs to get background information — would be the best deterrent. 
“The typical kid just wants to get in . they don’t believe they’re going to get caught,” he said. 
A COSTLY PROBLEM 
When casinos catch underage gamblers, the law requires the business to report the incident to the gaming board. 
Sometimes, young gamblers aren’t caught until they’ve wagered. 
That was the case when a 20-year-old from New York won an undisclosed jackpot on a Sands slot machine in August. He was forced to forfeit his winnings when officials checking his ID for tax purposes realized his photo did not match his appearance. 

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