Newspaper Sounds Alarm Over Pennsylvania Gambling Ads

Written By J.R. Duren on November 30, 2022
Pennsylvania gambling ads criticized by local newspaper

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is under fire for its awareness campaign addressing children left unattended while people gamble in Pennsylvania.

This past week, the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s editorial board published a scathing critique of the PGCB’s response to unattended children, calling it “silly.”

“The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has a silly solution for a serious problem. Scores of customers at local casinos continue to leave kids locked in their cars while they go inside and gamble.”

The paper’s response, along with the data provided by the PGCB, brings to light a heartbreaking reality in the country’s second-largest casino market.

However, the paper called on the board to do more than launch “questionable ad campaigns.” Instead, it should focus on doing more to promote responsible gambling.

Pennsylvania gamblers leaving children unattended spikes nearly 60% in 2022

Earlier this month, the PGCB announced an awareness campaign aimed at guardians who leave children by themselves at Pennsylvania casinos.

The announcement noted that unattended children incidents are up 57% in 2022.  “Unattended” could mean gamblers leaving their kids in a car while they gamble. It could mean guardians leaving kids in a hotel room while they hit the gaming floor.

Either way, through early November, the number of incidents jumped from 171 in all of 2021 to 269. Also, the number of children involved rose from 279 to 441.

To combat this, the PGCB launched a multi-platform awareness campaign called “Don’t Gamble With Kids.” The campaign includes:

  • Radio public service announcements
  • TV ads
  • Social media posts
  • Videos
  • Printed materials
  • A website

PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the board is “hopeful” the campaign will work.

“Ultimately, we want everyone to understand the scope of this problem and know what to do if confronted with a situation in a parking lot, hotel, or elsewhere. That is, immediately report the situation to casino or hotel security, who have extensive training on how to appropriately respond.”

Additionally, lawmakers have made it illegal to leave children in cars. Also, Valley Forge Casino Resort went as far as to install infrared cameras in their parking lot to help detect unattended minors.

Philly newspaper believes PGCB isn’t doing enough

The Inquirer‘s opinion piece is a direct response to the PGCB’s new campaign. Simply put, the paper said that an awareness campaign isn’t enough.

Board members need to earn their salary and present a legitimate way to curb guardians leaving children alone. The paper wrote:

“Is that the best the Gambling Control Board members — who get paid $145,000 a year to meet once or twice a month — could come up with? Any parent or guardian who leaves a child in a car to go gamble—sometimes for hours—likely has a serious addiction problem. Running a few ads is unlikely to change their behavior.”

The paper noted that problem gambling leads to all kinds of issues:

  • Crime
  • Suicide
  • Bankruptcy
  • Higher divorce rates
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Depression

The paper made a convincing case. It gave data. It made valid points. However, it failed to give answers. It gave no plan. It did not provide specific action steps.

So, what is the state to do about minors and problem gambling? Most can agree that it can take action. But not just any action. Effective problem-gambling policy and enforcement are needed.

In the meantime, problem gamblers can get help in several ways:

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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