Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino Fined $90,000 for Underage Gambling a Month After Bethlehem Pennsylvania Penalties

Posted on: May 16, 2019, 04:45h. 

Last updated on: May 16, 2019, 05:04h.

The operator of Rivers Casino Pittsburgh is going to pay $90,000 in fines following allegations underage patrons seven times wagered on the venue’s gaming floor.

The Rev. Richard McGowan, an associate professor at Boston College, warns about the “thrill” underage gamblers may feel at casinos. (Image: NECN)

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) assessed the fine on Wednesday against Holdings Acquisitions, Co. Each of the incidents involved individuals under the age of 21.

In one case, a 17-year-old girl wagered at slot machines. The other times, 20-year-olds, men and women, either used machines or played at gaming tables.

The 20-year-olds were also served alcohol. The casino only allows those who are at least 21 to enter the venue.

IDs are checked at entrances to ensure a patron’s age. The incidents were self-reported by the venue, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Management also took additional steps to prevent future occurrences. “We’ve reviewed and modified internal procedures to help prevent recurrence,” Rivers spokesman Jack Horner told the Pittsburgh newspaper.

It was not immediately known if police will charge any of the patrons. Previously, in similar occurrences involving another Pennsylvania casino, some of the underage patrons were charged with defiant trespass.

Doug Harbach, communications director for the state’s gaming control board, declined to provide details on the inquiry. He did not provide exact dates of the incidents.

“The one thing I can say is that the issue of underage gambling has and will continue to be of great concern to the board, particularly as the new avenue of legal gambling is made available in the Commonwealth,” Harbach told Casino.org.

Pennsylvania Gaming Officials Continue to Impose Fines

Including the most recent penalties, the board has cumulatively imposed over $3.1 million in fines for these kind of infractions — since 2007. That makes it the “single biggest category of fines,” Harbach said.

Last month, the Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort in Pennsylvania was fined $120,000 after underage visitors accessed slot machines and table games, and consumed alcohol. There were 11 instances of underage violations at the casino.

Seven teenagers aged 18-19, and four 20-year-olds gained access to the gaming floor, and four of them were additionally served alcohol. The incidents occurred between March 2018 through January.

In 2017, Sands was fined $150,000 for similar offenses. And in 2010, Sands was fined $48,000 for still more similar occurrences.

In another incident, in 2017 the Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady, New York was fined $6,000 for letting a minor gamble a week after its grand opening. The venue, like the one in Pittsburgh, is operated by Rush Street Gaming Properties.

In a separate inquiry, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board this week also fined SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown $17,500. The penalties stem from a September incident where employees allegedly served a gambler 17 complimentary alcoholic drinks over eight hours.

Experts Concerned About Underage Gaming

When told about the most recent underage incidents, James P. Whelan, a professor and co-director of the Institute for Gambling Education and Research at the University of Memphis, told Casino.org “it is important to enforce regulations to prohibit adolescent gambling.”

“We have solid evidence that gambling involvement by adolescents has a role in adult gambling disorder,” Whelan added.

He explained that those who experience gambling problems “tend to begin gambling at a younger age.” Also, when a brain in a young person is exposed to rewards of “any risk taking” it “may create a strong appetite for taking that risk,” Whelan explained.

The Rev. Richard McGowan, an associate professor in the Finance Department at Boston College, and who has written several books on the ethical and historical implications of gambling in America, further told Casino.org that underage patrons may be lured by the “thrill” of gaming in a casino.

Like booze or anything that is reserved for 21 years old or older, it is the thrill of beating the system,” McGowan said. “Gambling, in particular, gives the underage person a thrill of being adult before their time.”