Move against gamblers
BENSALEM, Pennsylvania – Officials in suburban Philadelphia say they never anticipated gamblers leaving children in cars when they were debating approval of a casino – but critics say they should have.This year, seven people have left a total of a dozen children unattended in vehicles at the parking lots of the Parx Casino in Bensalem. Two state lawmakers last week said they planned to introduce legislation that would make it a third-degree felony to leave a child younger than 13 in a car.“Of all the problems we thought about that were going to happen, this is one thing that was probably inconceivable,” Representative Gene DiGirolamo, Republican for Bucks, said in announcing the effort. State Senator Robert Tomlinson added that people were “shocked” by the incidents.Although officials said they were ready for problems with traffic, crime and gambling addiction, these instances have taken them by surprise, but critics said they shouldn’t have been.
“They didn’t do their research,” said Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids And Cars, a nonprofit group that tracks child deaths and injuries in and around automobiles. “There is plenty out there about the fact that kids are left alone in cars at casinos.”The group said it had collected accounts of more than 30 cases of parents leaving children in locked cars outside casinos over the decade ending in 2003. The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal said a study of Indiana Gaming Commission records turned up 37 incidents in which 72 children were left unattended at casinos in that state in 1999 and 2000.News accounts have recorded a few instances that resulted in fatalities. In 1997, for example, a ten-day-old girl reportedly died in a car while her mother gambled for hours in a South Carolina casino. The next year, a three-year-old Louisiana boy was reported to have died in a hot van while his nanny played video poker for five hours.Doug Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, said he knew of no children left in cars at the state’s other eight casinos. Another spokesman, Richard McGarvey, said he did not know whether casinos were required to report such incidents to the board, which last month warned Parx officials to address the problem.Thomas Bonner, Parx vice-president and general counsel, said last week that the casino planned to have 31 parking lot surveillance cameras in place by the middle of the month, and security patrols were being increased during the casino’s busiest times.(AP)