BILOXI, Miss. — The casino gaming industry came together today to discuss the issue of unattended children and minors in the casino environment and learned that it is the first entertainment sector to mobilize its efforts on an industry-wide basis to address this issue.
In the second of a series of ongoing seminars, Ernie Allen, president & CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, relayed this message to a group of casino representatives at the Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi, including security; hotel/casino management and operations; legal personnel; public relations professionals; and human resources representatives.
Allen’s seminar, “A Technical Assistance Seminar on Policies and Procedures for Unattended and Missing/Exploited Children and Minors,” included discussion of the American Gaming Association’s “Guidelines for Children and Minors,” a review of model policies and programs for the casino gaming industry and an examination of issues relating to missing and exploited children as they pertain to casinos.
Since the AGA partnered with the NCMEC last year in an effort to ensure the safety of children who visit hotel-casino properties with their parents, the industry has made tremendous progress on this front. In November 1997, the AGA’s board of directors approved suggested guidelines for its casino companies to adopt regarding children and minors, and the industry has been actively involved in developing and implementing resolute policies and programs.
“The casino gaming industry is fully committed to increasing the awareness level of this serious issue and doing everything it can to keep children safe,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., AGA president & CEO. “Although parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children, it also our responsibility as an industry to make sure our patrons our safe, especially children, when they visit our properties.”
In addition to a presentation from the NCMEC, the seminar also included participation from two casino companies — Grand Casinos, Inc. and Mirage Resorts, Inc. Both companies shared the approaches their companies have taken with regard to children and minors in the casino environment, including implementing strict company policies, employee training and education programs for both customers and employees.
“We are very impressed with the casino industry’s desire to do something about a problem that is inherent with any industry dealing with the public, especially an industry that experiences millions of visitors,” said Ernie Allen, NCMEC president. “Any time a child is left unattended, there are potential risks, and we are encouraged that the casino-gaming industry is using every available resource to ensure that families and children are safe in their facilities.
“The fact that this industry is proactively taking responsibility for protecting children who are on their premises is the most important step of all, and much good will come out of their efforts. Many industries don’t feel the responsibility should fall on them,” Allen said.
The NCMEC seminar will be an ongoing part of efforts made by the NCMEC and the AGA to educate casino representatives about the importance of keeping children safe while visiting casino properties with their parents. The first such seminar was held in Las Vegas, Nevada last February. The next one is scheduled for June 16, 1998 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The NCMEC, established in 1984, is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as a clearinghouse of information on missing and exploited children. Working with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCMEC has helped to reunite 38,868 children with their families.
The AGA represents the gaming-entertainment industry by addressing regulatory, legislative and educational issues. The association serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops aggressive educational and advocacy programs and provides leadership in addressing industry issues that are of public concern.