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PA Casinos Fined for Underage Gambling

11 February 2011 by admin

underage_gambling_0227A common argument against online gambling is that, in their mind, anyone can log in and play for real money. There are no protections against problem gambling and underage gambling. Therefore, it’s only safe to offer casino games in a land-based casino, which is strictly regulated by the government and has employees on hand to make sure problem gamblers and minors don’t play.

That way of thinking, of course, doesn’t line up with reality. Online casinos have lots of controls in place to spot problem gamblers, exclude them and assist them in getting help. They also have adequate protections against underage gambling. It’s true that there are ways around the system, just like there are ways for minors to get served beer at a bar. For one thing, they can create a fake ID. Does that mean all bars should be shut down? Of course not.

Another problem with this way of thinking is that it overestimates the ability of brick and mortar casinos to stop problem gambling and underage gambling. As recent events in Pennsylvania show, that’s not always the case. Two western Pennsylvania casinos have been hit hard by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for severing underage gamblers.

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino was fined $30,000 due to two separate incidents where small children were found on the casino floor and one incident where a 20-year-old man was found gambling. The legal gambling age in Pennsylvania is 21. The other casino punished by the PGCB is the Rivers Casino, located in Pittsburgh. That casino received the largest fine ever levied by the state regulators. As a result of seven different incidents of underage gambling in June, the casino was fined a staggering $105,000. The most egregious incidents involved a 15-year-old boy who played slot machines with his mother and an 18-year-old who was given a player’s card.

underageGamblerOnline casinos and brick and mortar casinos both generally do a good job of protecting against underage gambling. However, both need to do a better job and I think both understand that. Both Pennsylvania casinos reported the violations to the Control Board as soon as they learned of them and are said to be taking the incidents very seriously. As for online casinos, the operators are constantly seeking to improve their protections. Right now, the European Gaming and Betting Association is working with the European Committee for Standardization to develop an industry-wide standard for protections.

People will always find ways around it. Despite the laws and regulations in place, minors will find ways to buy cigarettes and alcohol, enter adult clubs, buy porn and gamble. That doesn’t mean those businesses should be banned or even vilified. It means they need to do their best to make sure their protections are ahead of those trying to circumvent them. I think each of those businesses (except maybe some of the porn sites) do a good job of that. So let’s lay off of that “minors gambling all of their allowance at online casinos” meme, shall we?

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