Rivers Casino's $150,000 fine includes underage gambling

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HARRISBURG -- Rivers Casino will pay a $150,000 fine for more than a dozen incidents related to underage gambling and improperly connected slot machines.

The state Gaming Control Board issued that penalty Wednesday, making it the third fine against Rivers operator Holdings Acquisition Co. involving gamblers younger than the legal age of 21.

More than half of that cost -- $80,000 -- resulted from three underage-gambling cases, during which individuals either were not asked for identification or somehow were still able to access slot machines and table games.

One situation involved a young man who visited the casino on his 21st birthday and asked for a duplicate player's card. It was then discovered that he had been issued the original card when he was 20 years old and had visited the casino nine times before he should have been legally allowed to enter the building.

In other instances, teenagers already inside the building presented identification cards that belonged to other people when security officers later decided to check their ages.

Michael Sklar, a lawyer representing Rivers, said the casino does not condone underage gambling. He urged the board to consider stronger penalties for the teenagers who try to enter casinos, rather than only boosting fines for the gaming establishments.

"It's like a bar -- the kids are going to try," Mr. Sklar said. "There is no way that you can have 100 percent where they don't get in."

Gaming Control Board chairman Greg Fajt said new disincentives, such as suspending a driver's license or adding a young person to the list of excluded casino patrons, could be considered. But he said casinos need to increase their training to ensure that all staffers are prepared to identify underage visitors.

"Our fines are getting more significant, and they will continue to get even more significant until we see the industry responding to this issue," Mr. Fajt said.

He spoke particularly sharply about one of the other two fines issued Wednesday for underage gambling violations. Mount Airy Casino Resort in Monroe County will pay a $160,000 penalty for an incident in which seven 16- and 17-year-olds were gambling.

"There is no reason that 16- and 17-year-olds should be on a gaming floor in any casino in Pennsylvania, especially when there's seven of them," said Mr. Fajt, who noted during the board's meeting that he felt the fine should have been even larger.

The other penalty involved Hollywood Casino in Dauphin County, which will pay $40,000 after a 20-year-old played table games and slots for two hours.

The remaining $70,000 of the Rivers fine resulted from several incidents last year in which a slot machine was put into service without proper testing and certification.

Those machines did not tally certain financial information during that time, though gaming officials said the revenues were later calculated and paid by the casino.

Mr. Sklar said the Rivers since has updated its procedures to require two technicians, rather than one, to inspect a machine before it is placed on the gaming floor.

Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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