Casino events

268 children have been left alone in the Bethlehem casino in 4 years. A new plan seeks to change that.

On the face of it, that’s a shocking number: 147 incidents over four years where 268 children were left unattended at the Bethlehem casino.

The incidents from 2018 to 2021 lasted from one minute to nine hours and are part of an increasingly concerning trend at the casino, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said Wednesday.

Now, the owners of Wind Creek Hospitality have developed a mitigation plan to not only deter parents or guardians from leaving children alone, but also to detect incidents.

The PGCB did not detail every incident, but said the ages of the children ranged from 2 months to 17 years and that they were found in various locations, from parked cars and secured hotel rooms to the food court or mall, the PGCB said. .

The casino was owned by the Sands before being sold in 2019 to Wind Creek.

More recently, from 2021 to April 2022, there have been 43 times children have been found alone on casino property. From these:

  • 32 were located at the food court
  • Five in the casino parking lots
  • Two at the hotel
  • Three in the adjoining mall
  • One in the main casino entrance

The Wind Creek plan, released Wednesday, includes more signage in and around the casino, increased training for staff, and mobile patrols in parking areas and foot patrols inside by exterior security.

“Over the last few months, probably a good part of a year, we’ve been going through a lot of incident reports, going through a lot of data, to really focus on what we think are the most problematic areas, the things that we could address to reduce this issue as much as possible,” said Michael Magazzu, Wind Creek’s executive director of compliance and risk assessment.

Most of the recent incidents have been in the food court, and Magazzu said new signs on each table have reduced the number of children left alone.

But a PGCB member took issue with the signs used for people leaving the car park, saying minors must be accompanied by an adult.

The sign must say: “’Parents, don’t leave your children in the car!’ I don’t know why you’re dancing around the question,” Sean Logan said. “You are here because people leave children in cars unattended. And they leave the kids in their hotel rooms unsupervised.

Glenn Granitz, the former Allentown police chief who is now chief security officer at Wind Creek, updated council on improvements to security patrols in the mall and food court, including an officer guard parked in the food court.

The casino has also increased its use of Bethlehem police patrolling parking lots, both on foot and in cars.

Granitz spoke about the large size of the campus and how ArtsQuest hosts a number of large events that draw kids and families to nearby SteelStacks. Recently, when it rained during prom season, the casino became a photo spot, he said.

“Obviously a lot of people of all ages come and go,” he said.

This is the second mitigation plan for unsupervised children in Pennsylvania casinos, the PCGB said.

The first was developed by Valley Forge Casino Resort in Montgomery County in November 2021. Valley Forge’s plan included a new infrared camera system to detect children and adults in vehicles with tinted windows.

Wind Creek doesn’t use infrared cameras, but Granitz said that’s something under consideration.

“Since the Council publicly addressed this serious situation, we have seen casinos step up their efforts to detect children left unsupervised on their property while the adults responsible for their care play,” said Kevin O’Toole, Executive Director of the Gaming Control Board. “All casinos take this issue seriously and we expect more specific plans, such as those implemented at Valley Forge and Wind Creek casinos, to be presented to us in the near future.”

The board did not say how many of the 147 incidents resulted in arrest and/or charges.

Lehighvalleylive.com reported on some of the incidents. In 2019, a New Jersey woman was charged with leaving three children under the age of 10 alone in a car for two hours in 2019. The following year, an 8-year-old boy and his 2-year-old sister were found wandering. on the fifth floor of the parking garage in January.

The numbers released Wednesday were news to the Northampton County Attorney’s Office, which was not contacted by Wind Creek or the board about it.

The casino is located in Northampton County, and arrests in incidents involving children would be referred by law enforcement to the District Attorney’s Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit, headed by the Chief Assistant District Attorney Tatum Wilson.

“We would love to have the opportunity” to speak to the casino or the PGCB, Wilson said.

Wilson said the number of cases prosecuted by the unit over the four-year period does not match the figures provided by the PGCB.

Not every incident would result in the arrest and/or indictment of a parent or guardian. Whether a parent is charged would depend on a number of factors, including the age of the child, how long they were left alone, where they were found and whether it was of a vehicle, Wilson said.

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Sarah Cassi can be reached at scassi@lehighvalleylive.com.

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