Casino bosses urge patrons to mind their kids - Saturday 12th of March 2005

Irresponsible parents, who spend hours gambling while their children are neglected at casinos, could be barred from the gambling houses.

And casino bosses are adamant that giving children money and leaving them to play video games is not being responsible.

Almost all the casinos in the province have dealt with cases involving neglected children.

Some, as young as five, are reported to be handed money and told to occupy themselves.

Prinella Pillay, Public Relations Manager at SunCoast Casino, said that the casino had just recently put into place a "Child Helpers Programme" charged with strictly monitoring the children in the complex and ensuring none of them are left loitering or neglected on the premises.
quot;The child helpers can be seen in bright red uniforms patrolling the complex and they work every evening from Friday through to Sunday between 8pm and 3am," Pillay said.

"There are also strategically-placed posters on the premises clearly indicating the importance of child safety to SunCoast and that in the interest of safety and peace of mind of the parents, children are not to be left unattended within the complex."
br>Pillay added that the child helpers worked very closely with security and the creche on the premises.

"We reserve the right to remove unattended children to the creche and take appropriate action," she said.

The programme has been in place for about a month and already it is having a remarkable effect, she said.

"Like all casinos, we have had incidents of children found loitering while their parents are gambling," she said.

quot;The awareness that the programme has created has made parents more cognisant of the realities they will face if they leave their children unattended."

Pillay advises lost children at the complex to make their way to the Club Desk, creche, security or the closest child helper on duty.

Mike Burns, the Acting General Manager of Strategic Operations at the National Gambling Board, said that this initiative was very welcome and that he would encourage all casinos to follow suit.

He added that the Gambling Board was very strict about teenagers under the age of 18 being on the gambling floor, but said that the welfare of the children in the children's play area was usually up to the parents and the casinos.

"It's wonderful to see such an initiative being put into place because we are also committed to the welfare of children," he said.

He added that at most casinos it was a general policy among the staff and security to be on the lookout for children loitering or left unattended by their parents.

"These children are usually identified and then their parents are located," he said.

He added that he welcomed the strict regulations that were being put into place.

Alec McMath, general manager of the Wild Coast Sun, said they would not tolerate any parent leaving their child unattended.

"We have facilities to take care of children with a qualified child minder, and parents are obliged to come and check on their kids every hour. During peak holiday season we have extra staff on duty taking care of kids.

"If we find a child in the car alone, we will call the police and that parent would be barred from our complex," said McMath.

Patrick Beney, general manager of the Golden Horse Casino in Pietermaritzburg, said they had only had three cases of child neglect since the casino opened in 2002.

"Recently, we banned one gambler from the casino after he continually neglected his child."

Beney said where necessary, the South African Police Service or Child Welfare could be called in.

Melville Vogel, general manager at Sibaya Casino, says that from Sun International's point of view they have always been very pro-active on the issue of children on their properties.

"We have a designated creche which is staffed by childminders.

This is divided into a TV room and a play room with games and toys, and an area with cots," he said.

"When parents or guardians arrive to admit the child into our care, they are photographed and their details recorded.

"We also take their cellphone numbers so that in the event of a problem, or if the child is asking for the parent or guardian, they can be contacted."

He added that there was a strict policy that children could not be left in the facilities for longer than four hours and that parents had to check on their children every hour.

"If a parent or guardian breaches this rule, they are automatically banned for a period from between three and six months from the property."

"We are also able - through this monitoring - to check on anyone who may be neglecting their children."

He added that the casino didn't just "throw out" offenders.

"We do have a system in place whereby someone from the management team chats to the parents about the issues," Vogel said.

"During our busy periods, such as holiday seasons, we also employ extra staff to handle the children in the creche and to ensure that children are not wandering around unattended on the property," he said.

"Any child found wandering on its own is taken to an appropriate area, and the parents are then sought out and met with."

Vogel said that they had not had reason to ban any parent rom the property yet.

"We do, however, see neglect as a form of abuse, and will take the appropriate action if required.

"I can confirm that along with other Sibaya management, I have personally attended to children and liaised with parents from time to time," he said.

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