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Kids left in parked cars draw casinos’ concern

The casino industry is partnering with child safety advocates to try to stop casino customers from leaving children unattended in cars while they gamble.

The American Gaming Association, whose members include Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Penn National Gaming, announced last week that it is working with KidsandCars.org, a Kansas City, Missouri, group that works to prevent injuries and deaths to children in and around motor vehicles.

AGA chief executive Geoff Freeman said the aim of the partnership is to raise awareness and strengthen the industry’s security practices.

“We all hear these stories at grocery stores or theme parks,” he said in an interview. “Many of us are parents of young children. If there is anything we can do to be partners to prevent children from being left in cars, we are glad to lead the way.”

The announcement, which earned praise from child advocates and gambling critics, follows a string of headline-grabbing incidents at casinos across the country.

Pittsburgh police last Tuesday arrested a woman accused of leaving her 9-year-old son in a parked car while she went to redeem a $10 voucher at Rivers Casino, according to local news accounts. The woman told police she had won the voucher that evening at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game and that it was good for only 24 hours.

The casino banned the woman for life, CBS affiliate KDKA reported, and Wednesday issued a statement saying, “We can’t stop parents from making bad decisions; but we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent this from happening.”

A couple of weeks ago, an Oakland, California, woman was arrested after her 2- and 3-year-old children were spotted alone in a parked car at Casino 580 in Livermore, California.

In Maryland on Dec. 31, a 24-year-old woman from Baltimore was charged with child abuse after police said she left a 4-year-old in a car at Maryland Live in Hanover for eight hours.

The temperature that day was in the mid-30s.

It was one of at least six cases of “children unattended in vehicles” at Maryland’s four casinos since January 2013, state lottery commission and gaming control agency reports show.

In Illinois, 85 children were left unattended in casino lobbies, parking lots and restaurants between Jan. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2012, a Chicago Sun-Times review of state gaming board records found.

Children aren’t the only ones being put at risk. Last month, a North Carolina man left his 98-year-old mother alone in a truck for hours in a parking garage while he gambled at Maryland Live casino near Baltimore, police said. He was charged with vulnerable adult neglect.

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