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Bills would make it illegal to leave kids in car while gambling

December 7, 2011 |  6:00 am

Legislation in Pennsylvania would make it illegal to leave kids unattended in casino parking lots.

In Pennsylvania, leaving the kids in the car while you hit the casino isn’t just a bad idea. In the future, it might be against the law too.

Lawmakers have approved measures that would make it a misdemeanor to leave children in vehicles while parents or guardians gamble at a casino.

The legislation — two bills known as H.B. 120 and H.B. 121 — were written by state Rep. Mike O’Brien (D-Philadelphia), who knows first-hand the potentially destructive influence of gambling on families.

“My father was a compulsive gambler,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I know the terror and anxiety a child can feel when left alone while his dad or mom gambles.”

The bills were approved Monday by the House of Representatives, 193 to 0. The measures now go to the state Senate.

O’Brien said that, at the Parx Casino in Bensalem alone, there have been at least 10 documented instances of children being left unattended in cars while parents gambled. In one incident this fall, three children — ages 12, 7 and 2 — were left in a vehicle by their grandparents, who went inside the SugarHouse casino near Philadelphia. The children were not harmed, and the grandparents were not charged.

For starters, the bills would prohibit any driver from leaving a child younger than 14 unattended in a vehicle on property owned, leased or controlled by a licensed gambling facility. They would also impose fines, up to $300,000, on gambling facilities that fail to report such violations.

At least in Nevada, some casinos have found ways to address kids-vs.-slots issues. Some neighborhood casinos, which cater to locals rather than tourists, provide play areas for children.

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-- Steve Padilla

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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