Kids in casinos don’t mix

Jun 26, 2006 3:41 AM

A few years back, I stepped on a child at the Riviera. The time was the Clapton hour; after midnight, and the toddler lay at the feet of his father. Obviously experiencing a bout of O.L.V. (Over Las Vegas), the little boy was dozing at the base of the slot machine into which the father was frantically feeding quarters.

Since traditionally casinos are the domain of the majority set (over 21), I would never think to look down as I strolled across the gaming floor. Until I heard the anguished cry emanating from the sluggish and footprint-bearing child, I had never thought about what role children do or should play in a casino.

The development of casinos from mere gambling halls to full recreational complexes has occurred with little thought of what to do with minors. Some innovative solutions, like Lyle Berman’s KidsQuest facilities for the Barney to Degrassi Jr. High element came on line with the expansion of gaming to non-traditional locations like Berman’s Grand properties in Minnesota.

In Las Vegas, where the casino has become the de facto town center with movies and bowling, an alternative to babysitting alone does not suffice. It still seems odd to me that a teenager would take a date to a place like Red Rock Canyon for dinner and a movie, but in Las Vegas this is normal.

As a parent, where else would one rather have two hormonally rambunctious kids besides under the all seeing eye-in-the-sky?

As we have learned from Las Vegas, family friendly and gambling are not inherently simpatico. Historical towns like Deadwood, South Dakota, Cripple Creek and Black Hawk/ Central City Colorado have tourist/family friendly activities available such as theaters, museums, town festivals, and candy shops. What the Colorado casinos have admirably accomplished is to delineate gaming and non-gaming.

In short, minors are not admitted to casino facilities, including most restaurants (i.e., some have a separate entry like Colorado Grande’s Maggie’s in Cripple Creek). While I have provided examples of the exception to the rules with Las Vegas, it is my base contention that in other markets children need not be present where gaming takes place.

A responsible parent would never take his or her child out to a stand-alone bar or strip club, where the pursuits are decidedly adult. Following this paradigm, why would a parent take a child to a casino where there is nothing for the kid to do but be exposed to an activity justifiably reserved for adult entertainment?

The May 25, 1997 brutal sexual assault and killing of Sherrice Iverson at Primm Valley should have been a wake-up call for the entire industry. Yes, there are many unique elements with this case, including but not exclusive to incredibly negligent parenting by the father (i.e., the father was asked to leave the casino floor and retrieve his daughter at least three times) and inadequate security of the arcade area where Sherrice was playing.

However, the question that should be better addressed is why vulnerable children were allowed to play unsupervised in a virtual adult playground. This senseless crime was one of a perpetrator’s unfortunate opportunity.

It is a real positive that casinos have not given in to wanting to sell one more child’s plate in the casino coffee shop or buffet to keep food and beverage revenue up. Casinos are for adults, and it is a good thing that Colorado casinos are keeping it this way.