Indiana, Pennsylvania Gamblers Arrested For Leaving Children Unsupervised and in Danger
Three sets of gamblers in two states — Indiana and Pennsylvania — were arrested in separate incidents over the last week after allegedly leaving young children unattended and, in one case, left to fend off extreme cold.
Jarad Elsen, 29, was charged with two counts each of criminal confinement and neglect after allegedly leaving his girlfriend’s two children at their Lawrenceburg, Indiana home on Monday, while he went to nearby Hollywood Casino, according to a report in Eagle Country Online.
The toddlers — ages one and three — were later found wandering on a street in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, only partially clothed. The three-year-old girl was wearing only a top, a purple jacket, one sock and one sandal. The boy was wearing a t-shirt, diaper, and socks. Temperatures outdoors were in the 30s.
In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, two children were left alone on Tuesday in the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem hotel while a parent gambled. A three-year-old girl was seen alone near the elevators on the hotel’s sixth floor, police said, while a six-year-old boy remained asleep in the hotel room.
The mother, Nicole Jones, 35, of Farmingville, New York, was charged with two counts of child endangerment, according to The Morning Call.
Also in Bethlehem on Saturday night, a six-year-old girl was found wandering alone on the fifth floor of the same Sands hotel and police found the child’s four-year-old sibling alone in a hotel room. The parents were identified as Qizhong Chen, 35, and his wife Hua Chen, 36, both of Brooklyn, N.Y. They were charged with endangering the welfare of children.
Children in these cases were either placed in temporary care of social service agencies or went to stay with a relative.
Parking the Kids
Incidents like these are not as rare as some might think. Routinely, there are incidents of children being left in cars while adults gamble. More than 300 of these situations have been documented since 1999, KidsAndCars.org reports.
Kathleen Conroy, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Buffalo who researches addiction, told Casino.org “it is incredibly sad when it happens to even one child.” She explains that gambling is primarily about risk, while addiction is primarily about chaos.
Putting the two together is a recipe for disaster,” Conroy said. “The urge to gamble can sometimes take over the ability to make responsible choices. So, leaving children unattended while satisfying the powerful urge to gamble is irrational and risky, it creates chaos, and can show the intense strength and power of addiction.”
Yet, adults who leave children alone in a car or unsupervised at home, while the adults gamble, may be excellent caretakers during other times, Conroy said.
Casinos Are Not Babysitters
While some states, like Massachusetts, require casinos to check parking lots and garages for any children left in cars or trucks, there’s a limit to how much gaming operators can do in these situations.
“Realistically, the casino is not accountable for providing a safe place for kids to stay while patrons gamble; that is the responsibility of the parent or caretaker,” Conroy said. “Some people believe a day care center may decrease the problem of leaving children unattended while caretakers gamble, but this could potentially expose kids to other risks.”
Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, explained that when an adult is “more concerned with gambling than ensuring the safety of their children, there is a problem.”
“It is usually gambling, but alcohol or other factors could also be involved,” she explained to Casino.org.
To further complicate matters, most child welfare workers are not trained in identifying gambling-related neglect unless they are called to a location like a casino, Nower said. Children whose parents have gambling problems are much more likely to develop addictions, depression, anxiety, and other issues, she said.
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