Two Caesars casinos in Iowa have run afoul of state regulators. Last week, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission handed out fines to both Harrah’s Council Bluffs and Horseshoe Council Bluffs for failing to stop two people who were underage from gambling. The casinos were assessed fines totaling $50,000.
Almost old enough, but not quite
According to the Commission’s stipulated agreement document, the first incident took place on April 8, 2019 at Harrah’s. A young woman named only as “V.M.” entered the casino at 6:25pm with an adult female companion. V.M. played slot machines for about half an hour.
The two women were approached by casino security at 7:05pm and asked to leave, not because V.M. was underage, but because other casino patrons had reported them for panhandling. It was at that point that security finally asked to see identification, at which point they realized that V.M. was 20-years old.
The legal casino gambling age in Iowa is 21.
Harrah’s notified the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation about two hours later, but the Commission was less than satisfied, saying, “Harrah’s failure to immediately notify DCI hampered their ability to follow up on the criminal matter.”
Harrah’s was fined $20,000 for the incident.
Gambling and boozing
The incident the next month, on May 21st, was objectively worse. An underage male called “K.C” – his actual age was not reported – walked into Horseshoe Council Bluffs at 4:42pm. He was there until 1:00 in the morning. K.C. gambled on “multiple” slot machines and drank – get this – thirteen alcoholic beverages.
He was finally told to leave because he had “inappropriate” contact with a female casino guest. At that point, he told security that was, in fact, underage. Police arrived on the scene and it was discovered that K.C., naturally, had a fake ID.
Horseshoe was fined $30,000. It was 50 percent more than the fine for Harrah’s because the young man spent so much time at the casino and came into contact with several employees – including when he bought drinks – without being questioned about his age.
Now, some might say of this story that it is of little to no significance because the fines are but a drop in the bucket for Caesars. They are a bit more meaningful for the individual casinos if they are the ones to actually pay them, but still, they are major casinos in the state and can likely suck up $50,000 pretty easily.
The importance is not the punishment, though. The importance is that the violations happened. And a natural juxtaposition would be with online poker, whose opponents frequently say that it’s too hard to keep kids off the sites, that it’s easy at a brick-and-mortar casino because minors have to show up in person. What they don’t realize (or admit) is that there are more technological barriers to prevent underage gambling online and an electronic “paper trail” to track these sorts of things than at a casino. It’s not that poker sites are infallible, but they have been close to it so far in the U.S. when it comes to underage gambling.