The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board imposed three modest fines totaling $17,500 Wednesday against three licensees, including Parx Casino.
Parx, owned by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment Inc., was fined $5,000 for an incident of premature online slots play in July 2019, just prior to the launch of iGaming in the state by Parx and others.
The consent agreement between the casino and board states that on July 12, 2019, an employee of Parx’s iCasino partner, GAN Plc, was conducting tests on two online slot games and accidentally made them available for public use. Parx and competitors were not approved to begin handling iCasino customers until July 15.
A board counsel during Wednesday morning’s meeting described how two patrons who were on Parx’s already-active online sportsbook site July 12 accessed the two casino games briefly and made a total of 499 wagers. Both patrons sustained losses, which were refunded.
Parx self-reported the incident and said it installed remedial procedures to ensure no games could be played on its site in the future prior to receiving gaming board approval.
Fines were also imposed of $7,500 against Second Street Gaming LLC and $5,000 against Love’s Travel Stops pertaining to a theft incident at the Love’s VGT location in Mifflinburg, Union County. Second Street Gaming has a VGT terminal operator’s license and provides Love’s with games as a licensed establishment.
The consent agreement notes that a patron in early morning hours in August 2020 broke into a VGT machine cash box at the Mifflinburg truck stop and stole $3,202 without being detected at the time. Both Second Street Gaming and Love’s were supposed to have video surveillance procedures in place with monitoring by employees to prevent such incidents, but they failed to do so on that date.
The fines mark the first ones issued by the gaming board this year, following a 2020 year in which the state’s regulators issued just four fines totaling $240,000, the lowest number of penalties since 2007.
Issue of child neglect by casino patrons resurfaces
At its meeting, the board also revisited an issue that has stirred concern among its members in the past: the dangerous practice of some casino visitors to leave minors in their parked cars as they gamble inside. The problem was discussed in unusual detail at February’s meeting.
Such offenses can be grounds for criminal charges, permanent eviction by the casino, and placement on the gaming board’s involuntary exclusion list barring violators from all Pennsylvania casinos. In two instances Wednesday, individuals placed on the involuntary exclusion list years ago for such infractions were — by split votes of the board — denied in their petitions to be removed from the list now that the required minimum number of years for them to be banned had passed.
One board member who voted against the requests, Sean Logan, also repeated concerns about whether the agency’s staff is doing enough to make sure casinos are sufficiently responsive to the problem.
He raised the question when noting an individual newly added to the involuntary exclusion list had been able to gamble for two hours at Harrah’s Philadelphia from 3 to 5 a.m. with two children left unattended in her vehicle in the casino’s garage. Logan cast blame on the casino as well as the patron.
“How does that happen and how does it continue to happen?” Logan wondered. “Is anything going to happen to Harrah’s?”
Cyrus Pitre, the board’s chief enforcement counsel, said that during the overnight period in question, the Harrah’s security staff that might normally have been monitoring the garage were summoned to accompany the middle-of-the-night “drop” collection of cash and vouchers from machines.
He said the board’s staff is working with Harrah’s to ensure it will have better monitoring procedures at all times in the future, and he also expects to make a future presentation to the board covering efforts to have all casinos address the issue of children left unattended in cars.