Parents ditch kids for casino tables - Saturday 25th of July 2009

THE rate of children being dumped by parents at Queensland casinos has almost doubled, with one father abandoning his two daughters on Christmas morning.

Groups of up to five children were found abandoned 48 times last year as theft, drugs, fraud and cheating embroiled the states four casinos.

Documents the casinos tried to hide show Conrad Jupiters on the Gold Coast has again emerged as the worst offender, with kids found unattended in the foyer, atrium, carpark or Spinners restaurant.

In a tragic story at the Broadbeach Casino, a father left his two girls, aged just 5 and 9, in the atrium area while he gambled inside at 12.40am on Christmas day last year.

"They advised that their dad had just gone into the casino," a State Government report said.

In another case at the Treasury Casino in Brisbane, a mother abandoned her daughter, 5, and her son, 13, in the carpark while she hit the tables inside.

"Both children were distraught (and) advised that their mother was in the casino," a report said.

"(The mother) indicated she had been playing blackjack."

The cases have emerged after a seven-month Freedom of Information battle after Tabcorp tried to block access to the Queensland Treasury documents. Crime also continues to grip the casinos with almost 1400 breaches of gaming regulations last year, a similar figure to previously.

The Brisbane and Gold Coast casinos suffered increases in chip, coin and credit thefts as well as cases of customers being caught cheating while playing cards or poker machines.

Conrad Jupiters managing director Stuart Wing yesterday said the company was happy for the information to be in the public domain. Mr Wing said the companys commitment to regulations was displayed in any increases in statistics.

"We work to close any loopholes that are found," Mr Wing said. "It shows we are responsible managers of a casino operation. We have a very pro-active stance on regulation."

However, the casinos are often caught breaking the law with letters showing a dealer worked the tables at the Gold Coast casino last December despite being unlicensed.

In some of the 525 procedural breaches last year, a three-month audit of the operation of the game of craps found breaches at the same Broadbeach venue.

It found "dealing inconsistencies" had occurred for some time but the details have been blacked out by FOI officers for commercial-in-confidence reasons.

In another case at Jupiters in Townsville in December, the integrity of 12 decks of the casinos official playing cards were compromised when a staff member left them on top of a roulette touchbet terminal.

Tabcorp, which owns the Brisbane, Townsville and Gold Coast casinos but not the Reef Casino in Cairns, is described as being "pro-active" by authorities in monitoring stray children near gaming areas.

The Gold Coast had 47 cases while Brisbane had one case.

There were only 28 cases statewide the previous year.

In one case at Jupiters on the Coast last year, two children, a boy aged 10 and a girl aged 17 were found at the hotel entrance while their father gambled inside.

Mr Wing said the abandoned cases represented only a small proportion of the eight million visitors to the Brisbane and Gold Coast casinos each year.

He said some of the children belonged to tourists who did not know the laws. Those caught were either excluded or served warnings. An extra 35 staff had been hired last year to monitor problem behaviour.

"Tabcorps Queensland casinos are community leaders in the detection and reporting of unattended minors within our properties and we continue to work diligently at improving our systems and training to ensure we maintain this leading position," Mr Wing said.

The company has found support from the Government, with Fair Trading Minister Peter Lawlor praising the casinos efforts and instead putting the onus on parents to do the right thing.

"All incidents involving unattended children being left in gaming venues are concerning," he said. "The Queensland Government implores parents to do the right thing and ensure children are supervised in their absence."

However, the revelations have placed a cloud over new laws aimed at stemming the problem, after children continued to be left unattended for the first month of the new regime.

Parents were liable for jail for leaving children alone from December 1 last year but the FOI documents show seven cases occurred in December and no charges were laid.

Two of the cases fell outside the laws because the children were between 12 and 18.

Professor Matt Sanders, of the University of Queensland Parenting and Family Support Centre, said the parents behaviour was appalling.

"This is neglectful parenting and there is no place for it," he said. "Casinos are no place for children in the first place and parents trying to organise their social life to enable themselves to gamble while leaving their kids should look at why they are doing this."

Families torn apart

Jupiters Casino, Gold Coast

January 1, 2008, 8.52pm: Two children, aged 10 and 13, were found in the atrium after 10 minutes as the father was in the casino. He was given a written warning.

January 28, 2008, 1.40am: Three children were left at the hotel entrance while their mother was in the casino for 30 minutes. The mother was excluded.

February 1, 2008, 12.27am: Two children, aged five and seven, were found in the atrium while parents were in the casino. The parents were given a warning and returned to Taiwan.

April 11, 2008, 4.10pm: A young girl was left unattended at the hotel entrance for one hour while her aunt was in the casino. She was given a verbal warning and asked to leave. April 19, 2008, 3.35pm: Three children, aged five, seven and 11, were found in the atrium unattended while their parents were in the casino. Verbal warning given.

April 28, 2008: An 8-year-old was found in the hotel foyer after being abandoned for 12 minutes after his monther was in the casino.

June 22, 2008, 11.31am: Two children, aged eight and 10, were left in the atrium while parents were in the casino. The family left the casino but their vehicle was tracked and they were sent an exclusion notice.

July 7, 2008, 3.34pm: Five unattended minors sitting on the lounges near hotel entrance. Their female guardians admitted they had been gambling in the casino for about half an hour.

July 7, 2008, 9.30pm: Two children, aged eight and 10, were found in the hotel entrance lounge area. Father confirmed children were left inside so they could have a look at the casino. Written warnings.

July 8, 2008, 10.30am: Three unattended minors, aged five, eight and 12, found on the lounges in the hotel entrance. Grandmother was too busy gambling and was banned.

August 14, 2008, 12.10pm: Unattended minors, aged 11 and 13, found in room 1521. Mother was in Brisbane.

October 12, 2008, 7.45pm: A child, eight, was left for 13 minutes. Both parents excluded.

October 19, 2008, 10.26pm: Three children, aged, 12, 14 and 16, were left alone for 84 minutes. Both parents were excluded.

November 30, 2008, 7pm: Two children were detected sitting under the big screen in the atrium area and advised security their parents were gambling in the casino. They entered the $1000 draw and were having a coffee. They were given a written warning.

December 25, 2008, 12.40am: Two girls, aged five and nine, were found walking around on their own in the atrium area. "They advised that their dad had just gone into the casino," a report stated. He was issued with a warning.

December 30, 2008, 2.38pm: Three children, aged nine, 10 and 11, were located in the atrium alone. Venue excluded the father.

Treasury Casino, Brisbane

June 20, 2008, 2.50pm: Two children, male, 13, and female, five, were found abandoned in a vehicle by cleaners in the level 5 carpark. They had been in there for 10 minutes. "Both children were distraught (and) advised that their mother was in the casino. (The mother) indicated she had been playing blackjack in the casino," a report states. The mother was served exclusion notice.

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