NJ: Tropicana casino let 14-year-old play slots

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - November 1, 2011

He sat down at one slot machine, played for a while, then moved to another one and played there, too. He kept playing as a security guard walked right past him.

And he was only 14 years old.

That teenager's nocturnal foray into the world of casino gambling has the Tropicana Casino and Resort in hot water with state casino regulators.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement is weighing fines against the Tropicana and several other casinos for allowing underage or self-excluded gamblers to play. The cases also involve other violations of casino regulations.

The state attorney general's office has filed against the casinos complaints that are being considered by the DGE.

In the Tropicana case, the boy, identified only as Jersey resident CG, was spotted by DGE investigators playing slots on Aug. 12 at 11:20 p.m. As they were watching him play, according to the attorney general's office, a casino security guard walked right past him and did nothing.

"Due to CG's youthful appearance, the division investigators requested that he produce identification," Deputy Attorney General R. Lane Stebbins wrote in his complaint against the casino. "CG then admitted to the division investigators that he was 14 years of age."

The boy was detained and turned over to his parents. It could not immediately be determined if the boy had accompanied his parents to the casino or if he was there alone. The complaint did not specify how much money the boy had won or lost.

New Jersey law says patrons must be at least 21 years old to gamble at casinos in Atlantic City, the nation's second-biggest gambling market after Las Vegas. People under 21 can only be on the casino floor if they are walking through it on their way to another room where gambling is not taking place, such as a restaurant or concert hall.

The law also says that anyone who signs up for the state's voluntary self-exclusion list must be barred from entering the casinos. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is accused of running afoul of that law regarding a person identified only as state resident YZ, who signed up for the self-exclusion list in 2007.

The list is a way for problem gamblers to help ensure they don't give in to their addiction by obligating the casinos to recognize and stop them at the entrance to the casino floor.

While playing baccarat on Feb. 19, YZ was approached by a Borgata pit manager. YZ refused to give his name, but the manager checked the self-exclusion list and had YZ ejected. The $13,228 in gambling chips YZ had with him were confiscated.

The DGE is likely to order that the money be split between programs to help compulsive gamblers and the state Casino Revenue Fund, which helps pay for programs for senior citizens.

Decisions had not been reached in either case as of Monday. The Tropicana declined to comment, and a Borgata spokesman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Other casinos are facing lesser fines or forfeiture orders for underage or excluded gamblers or record-keeping violations.

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