On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board whacked three casinos with fines totaling $165,000.
One of those casinos, Sands Bethlehem, was hit with a $50,000 fine for failing to prevent five minors from gambling at its property.
The recent incidents were:
- A 19-year-old male gained access to the gaming floor where he wagered at slot machines and consumed alcohol;
- A 20-year-old female gained access to the gaming floor and wagered on slot machines;
- Two males, ages 19 and 20 years old, gained access to the gaming floor and wagered at slot machines; and,
- A 20-year-old male gained access to the gaming floor and wagered on slot machines.
Eighth time the casino has been fined
When it comes to minors accessing the casino floor, Sands is a repeat offender. Since opening, the casino has amassed some $430,000 in fines for allowing people under the age of 21 access to gambling areas and/or serving them alcohol:
- In 2009 and 2010, Sands Bethlehem paid $48,000 in fines for six separate instances of underage gambling.
- In 2010 and 2011, there were four more documented cases of underage gambling that resulted in Sands Bethlehem paying a $48,000 fine.
- For violations that occurred in 2012, Sands paid another $68,000 in fines for six underage gambling offenses.
- 2013 saw Sands hit with $56,000 in fines for underage gambling violations.
- In 2014, Sands paid its largest fine to date, an $85,000 penalty after six more instances of underage gambling were discovered.
- In early 2016, Sands was fined $36,000 for three underage gambling incidents that occurred in 2015.
- In August 2016, Sands was fined $39,000 for three underage gambling violations.
- And most recently, Sands was fined $50,000 for four separate incidents involving five underage gamblers.
Underage gambling is often stopped
To be fair, Sands isn’t the only casino that has fallen victim to these fines, nor is it overly lax in trying to thwart underage gamblers.
According to Sands Bethlehem CEO Mark Juliano, the casino has a pretty good success rate, turning away about 300 people per day for not having valid ID. But it’s also trying to get better.
Juliano told the PGCB that Sands has added new ID scanners at entry points and replaced the velvet rope line that previously separated the gaming areas from common areas. Previously, steel and brass gates created a single checkpoint.
“You literally would have to jump over the fence to get in,” Juliano said at the hearing.
Why does Sands get singled out?
The reason Sands is often singled out for underage gambling violations has to do with its chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson’s remarks about online gambling.
In 2013, Adelson touted the ability of land-based casinos to stop underage gambling in an interview with ABC News. At the same time he dismissed the efficacy of online gambling when it comes to monitoring underage access:
“The possibility of underage children finding ways to place online wagers and the possibility of people betting under the influence of drugs or being coerced are all scenarios that can happen when the person is only monitored by their own computer screen.
On the other hand, when a person makes an effort to get dressed, join some friends and head to the local casino for a night of entertainment, they must show themselves as adults, and their behavior can be observed and ultimately managed by security and other staff if needed.”
Sands has been an opponent of PA online casinos, which is on the state legislature’s radar this year.
It should be noted that to date, there hasn’t been a single incident of underage gambling at any of the regulated online poker or casino sites in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey.
Because of Adelson’s comments and online gambling’s stellar track record, the performance of his properties are (fairly or unfairly) scrutinized on this front.