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Pa. casino fined for allowing underaged gambling, including an 11-year-old

Pennsylvania gaming regulator chided the Mt. Airy Casino Resort for "egregious and extreme" violations.

Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos in August 2020.
Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos in August 2020.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Pennsylvania on Wednesday hit Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos with nearly $266,000 in fines and penalties for gaming-law violations, including three incidents of gambling by people under 21.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board fined the Monroe County casino $160,000 for three incidents in the last year in which people under the legal gambling age of 21 passed unchecked through security at the casino entrances and played slot machines, sometimes with the assistance of their parents. The casino’s policy is to demand identification of anyone who appears to be younger than 30.

“Even an 11-year-old doesn’t look like they’re 30. I don’t care if they’re five-eight, I don’t care if they’re six foot.”

Denise J. Smyler, Chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

In two of the three incidents, casino employees came within 10 feet of the minors on the gaming floor and did not challenge them. In addition to an 11-year-old accompanied by her parents — her father inserted a $100 bill into a slot machine to stake her — another incident involved twin 13-year-old girls with their mother. A third incident involved an 18-year-old male.

“It sounds like the entire staff needs to be trained,” Denise J. Smyler, the board chair, said at a meeting Wednesday. She expressed the board’s “extreme disappointment” in the casino.

The state gaming board, which licenses and regulates casinos and employees, also fined Mount Airy $100,825 for failing to file 32 corporate or individual license renewal applications by the statutorily mandated due dates. Along with an assessment of a $5,000 fee for gaming board costs, the casino will pay penalties totaling $265,825 for the two consent agreements.

The board members focused on the underaged gaming violations, which board member Frances J. Regan described as “egregious and extreme.”

The casino’s verbal attempts at Wednesday’s meeting to explain the violations did not appear to generate much sympathy from the regulators.

Lianne Asbury, Mount Airy’s executive director of security, said the casino had been challenged by COVID-19 mask requirements, which made it more difficult to judge a person’s age. “In the 11-year-old situation, the child was wearing a mask,” she said. “The child’s also 5-foot-7 with womanly features.”

“It sounds like the entire staff needs to be trained.”

Denise J. Smyler

Smyler, the board chair, expressed disbelief that the girl, who visited the casino in November, did not arouse suspicion according to the casino’s policy to check anyone who appears to be under 30.

“Even an 11-year-old doesn’t look like they’re 30,” she said. “I don’t care if they’re five-eight, I don’t care if they’re 6 foot. And I don’t care if they’re built like a woman.”

The 13-year-old twins, who were hotel guests with their mother in April, placed their hands upon their mother’s hand as she pulled the lever several times on a slot machine. At one point, the mother called to a casino security officer, who walked between the two children on the gaming floor to speak with the adult. The security officer did not challenge them.

The third incident involved an 18-year-old man in June 2021 who entered the casino to visit an employee of one of the restaurants, during which he spent three minutes playing slot machines. The employee told the restaurant manager, who reported the incident to security.

In all three incidents, the adults received summary criminal citations related to underaged gaming and banishment from the casinos. Casino security personnel were disciplined, according to the consent agreement. The casino has also ordered a company-wide training effort in October.

But Asbury also suggested that parents needed to shoulder some of the blame, and likened the criminal penalties they face to traffic tickets. “The fines need to be stricter, the penalties need to be more stringent,” she said.