Pennsylvania Officials Target Underage Gambling With New Campaign

August 30, 2016
PA underage gambling

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has started a campaign called “What’s Really at Stake” to combat underage gambling.

A new website launched this spring in conjunction with the campaign and features a variety of resources designed to help underage gamblers and their parents understand the risks, motivations and damage involved in underage gambling.

The website features five different categories of content: consequences, a video, a quiz, an informative blog and a resources page.

Underage gambling consequences are many, campaign says

While underage gamblers may enjoy the thrill of sneaking into a gambling areas of a PA casino, the consequences of such a choice go far beyond the blow-back of a tarnished reputation or image.

“Gambling within a casino while under the age of 21 can have severe consequences,” the site says. “While it could affect your image and reputation, there are also legal repercussions, health issues and the potential for compulsive behavior.”

Those additional consequences include:

  • Possible arrest and fines
  • conviction on your permanent record
  • A lifetime ban from the casino in which the crime took place
  • Placement on the PGCB’s “exclusion list“, a photo lineup of banned gamblers
  • Risk of problem gambling and other addictions

The exclusion list included in these various consequences has the names of the gamblers and features a thumbnail photo. The photo and named are linked to a PDF download that details the offender’s age, name, date of offense and a brief description of their crime.

Resources detail problem gambling, myths

What’s Really at Stake’s resources section gives the reader a litany of links through which they can learn about the signs of youth/teen problem gambling, signs of student problem gambling, as well as myths about problem gambling and a guide for friends and family.

According to the site, these links are a good fit for someone who wants to know how to talk with a problem gambler and handle any situations that arise because of their addiction.

Variety of methods used by youth at casinos

Trib Live reporter Mark Gruetze explained some of the details of the campaign earlier this month when he talked with PGCB Spokesman Doug Harbach.

According to Gruetze, over the past decade, Pennsylvania casinos have paid about $2 million in fines for underage gambling.

Casino security measures aren’t foolproof, but they do tend to weed out most of the offenders. For example, Meadows vice president Sean Sullivan told Gruetze that his security guards use an ID scanner to check the identification of anyone who looks 30 or younger. About 0.5 percent of ID’s turn out to be fakes.

Sullivan said the shenanigans are numerous:

“Underage patrons, seeking booze, gambling or both, have provided fake IDs of varying sophistication. They might try to distract a security guard so a friend can sneak in. Properties that issue wristbands to young-looking gamblers keep an eye out for ones that have been cut off and stitched back together.”

Confiscated winnings used to fund campaign

The Trib Live story also noted that the campaign is funded, in part, by the confiscated wins of gamblers who have been banned from casinos for a variety of reasons.

PGCB’s Harbach says he only anticipates these crimes increasing if Pennsylvania’s new gambling bill passes.

“All signs are pointing to the addition of other and likely more accessible forms of gambling that are going to be available in the near future,” Harbach was quoted as saying. “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.”

That could include Pennsylvania online casinos, if internet gambling and poker are approved.

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