AGA + KidsandCars.org = a Good Thing! By Jeffrey Compton August 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm One day when I was three years old, I was wandering around our front yard while my father was gardening. To amuse myself I climbed into the front seat of our car and began playing. Getting bored with the steering wheel, I decided to play with the big stick on the right side. Suddenly the car rolled backward down the driveway across the street, stopping on the grass medium strip separating the two lanes of Belvoir Blvd. I was lucky – and terrified. Thankfully, no one was on the driveway, the sidewalk, or driving on the busy street outside our house. I think of it as a miracle that neither I nor anyone else was killed. Although I did not have any lingering nightmares over the incident, it probably was one reason I avoided getting a driver’s permit until I was 22 years old Was my father a good parent? Yes, he was the best and I am still fortunate to have him around 56 years later. Was he negligent that day? You bet! Of course not willfully, but like millions of other wonderful and dutiful parents it did not occur to him that a child left alone in a car creates a threat, no matter where that car is located and no matter how few minutes the child is in the car. (My father, who read this column before I posted it, told me that my grandfather – his father-in-law and best friend – drove down to our house “and ripped me a new one” when he heard about the incident.) So both of us were pleased to hear that the American Gaming Association will be partnering with KidsandCars.org, a well-regarded grass roots organization created to protect children in and around motor vehicles, to publicize the dangers of leaving children alone in cars, and work with casino staffs to help eradicate kids-in-cars incidents in casino parking lots. But based on the some emails and phone calls I have received yesterday, not everyone agrees with my father and I. In an attempt to get publicity, isn’t the AGA calling attention to a few occurrences involving only the worst kind of parent? No they aren’t! As I just pointed out, many good parents leave their kids in a car, not realizing the danger. While I was writing this column a professional gaming colleague called – and confessed that she leaves her ten-year-old in a car while she goes grocery shopping because “he would rather sit there and play video games than follow me around the store.” My guess is that the partnership of AGA and KidsandCars.org will at very least result in many interesting discussions (or self-examinations) around the country. More relevant to our industry are those thoughtless souls who leave their children in a car while they visit a casino. And while I do not consider that acceptable parenting (my father patronized bars – but he never took me into one nor left me in the car while he visited), the unfortunate truth is that whenever a casino is (only partly) involved in this type of incident, it causes negative publicity. I am sure children are left inappropriately in cars while a parent visits a mall, has his/her hair done, attends a parent-teacher conference, or stands in line for confession, but when it happens outside a casino the (frequently national) press is there to criticize the parent, the casino and, of course, the industry that is leading otherwise good people to perdition. Parents who leave kids in cars outside casinos is not an issue to be ignored, but one the industry should grab by the horns. The AGA partnership with KidsandCars.org was announced during Responsible Gaming Education Week (and as part of the AGA’s ongoing “Get to Know Gaming” campaign), but I do not think that the primary motivation was to gather publicity or to make president Geoff Freeman, the AGA, or the gaming industry “look good.” Freeman and many members of his team are the parents of small children and thus are more in touch with “front-line” parental issues than many of us. Their personal lives tell them that that the best parents in the world (like my father) can momentarily screw up – and they know from their professional lives that when parents leave children in a casino parking lot the industry takes a direct hit. So let’s join them in doing something about it before more incidents leads the discussion further in the wrong direction. The AGA (+ the rest of us) + KidsandCars.org = a Good Thing!