With Gaming Expansion pending, PA launches Campaign to Thwart Underage Gambling

Slot MachinesIf you’re a fan of gambling who lives in Pennsylvania, there’s a lot going on in the Legislature these days. A rather lengthy bill is on the table, awaiting the return of the legislative session in September, that could potentially expand gambling in the state to put slot machines in airports and off-track betting sites, as well as opening doors to the regulation of online casinos and poker sites in the Keystone State.

Amidst the controversial legislation is an argument that passage of the bill could increase the rate of underage gambling in the state. While it’s already been proven that the security and identity verification technology associated with online casinos and poker sites (already regulated in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey) is capable of keeping underage gamblers out, the rate of incidents reported by land-based operators is a concern for politicians and anti-gambling organizations.

Just last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) issued a $39,000 fine against the operator of Sands Bethlehem for three reported incidents of underage persons being permitted to access the casino gaming floor. This marks the seventh time Sands Bethlehem has been fined since 2010.

Underage Gamblers Stop At Nothing

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington County, PA, works diligently to prevent underage gamblers from accessing its gaming areas, and hasn’t reported a single incident since 2013. But that hasn’t stopped clever under-21’s from trying.

Not long ago, Meadows staff caught a young woman determined to enter the casino by any means possible. To avoid ID checks, she actually climbed the edge of a moving escalator before attempting to scale a 3-foot tall glass partition separating her for the slot machines.

We get shenanigans all the time,” said Sean Sullivan, VP/GM for Meadows. He’s seen a lot in his day, including underage individuals seeking access to gambling, alcohol, or both, by use of fake IDs, attempted distractions to security guards, and even wristbands (provided to those who look too young, but are not) being sewn back together on the wrists of underage patrons.

PA launches ‘What’s Really At Stake?’

PA fights Underage Gambling on cusp of Regualting Online CasinosPennsylvania regulators have launched a new campaign in hopes of convincing individuals under 21 years of age that gambling is not worth the risk. The campaign, called ‘What’s Really At Risk?‘, is being funded by the confiscated winnings of players who gamble illegally at PA casinos, including cheats, banned players and compulsive gamblers who previously volunteered to be on the state’s self-exclusion list.

The campaign, which has seen posters go up in and around casinos all over the state, warns underage gamblers of the potentially harmful, long-term effects associated with underage gambling. Not only are individuals under 21 more susceptible to gambling addiction, there’s a lot more at risk than that. Things like, “reputation, friendships, character, career, family, respect… your entire future,” the campaign advises.

Those caught could be arrested, fined, and banned from PA casinos for years, potentially far beyond the age of 21. Additionally, their name could be listed on the state’s website, branding them among other perpetrators like career casino cheats. Furthermore, criminal trespassing charges will appear on their record, possibly affecting their future in terms of eligibility when filling out for college and job applications.

As the campaign’s name implies, there’s a lot more at risk for those who attempt to gamble in Pennsylvania casinos before the age of 21. And with an expansion of land-based and online casino gambling so likely in the near future, Dough Harbach, a spokesman for the PCGB, believes there’s no more appropriate time to launch the campaign than right now.

All signs are pointing to addition of other and likely more accessible forms of gambling that are going to be available in the near future,” said Harbach. “While we started this program in April concentrating on casinos, … the expectation is that our focus could be expanded to oversee some of these other forms of gambling.”

You can get more information from the PGCB on Teen Gambling here.

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