From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Family Values in a Grand Casino
George Conklin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
24 May 1996 19:23:27
Title:Grand Casino promotes family values
May 24, 1996
Mennonite Board of Missions
Contact: Tom Price, director of information
Phone: (219) 294-7523
Grand Casino promotes its family values
GULFPORT, Miss. (MBM) -- You could call it the casino with family
At its casino here and another in neighboring Biloxi, Miss., the Grand
Casino offers yet another lure to prospective gamblers: a fully licensed
and supervised child-care center for their children, ages six weeks to 12
Grand Casino's Kids Quest provides a "safe and nurturing environment"
for $3 per hour. In addition to an expansive nursery for infants and
toddlers, children can:
* Climb through tunnels and wade through colorful plastic balls in a
massive indoor playground.
* Play with popular toys, such as Barbie or Legos.
* Watch their favorite family film on a big-screen television.
* Become a performer in a miniature Karaoke or with a giant "playano."
* Test their skills on the latest arcade and video games.
* Use a computer to transform their pictures into video coloring books
There is no charge for any of the arcade games, but parents are charged
for any snacks provided.
Promotional materials bill Kids Quest as "an incredible learning
experience in fun," where children experience the "thrill of the latest
Children stay for an average of three to four hours; an eight-hour stay
is the limit. There is one care giver for every ten children with a one
to three ratio for infants.
"Kids Quest is more than entertainment, it's 'edutainment!'" a casino
But several participants who toured Kids Quest as part of the Jan. 26-27
Casino Gambling Consultation here saw another function: a training ground
for future casino consumers.
"They had strobe lights in Kids Quest to get the kids used to (a casino
environment)," said Esther Kniss, a member of Gulfhaven Mennonite Church.
"That depressed me."
Another participant asked a child, "Are you having a good time?"
"No," the child replied, "I'm waiting for my mother."
Despite reservations from gambling opponents, the care provided by Kids
Quest ranks among the best by any measurable standards, according to the
Rev. John Landrum, a Southern Baptist pastor-turned independent chaplain
to Mississippi Beach. In fact, a church's provision of day care even
inspired the casino to develop Kids Quest.
Landrum considers the alternative even worse -- a pattern of child
neglect that occurs at other casinos as well as at the Grand Casino when
Kids Quest is closed (hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 9
a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday).
"We have seen children locked in cars until 3 or 4 a.m.," said Gulfport
police Chief George Payne, Jr.
Landrum described one incident where the parents of a pre-teen gave
their child a gun to defend himself if someone approached the car.
Kids Quest eliminates that form of parental irresponsibility -- at least
when it is open.
"That's a nice place. You can take your kids in, and they can have a
good time," Payne said. "But you have to remember how to go back and get
In theory, parents must remain on the Grand Casino grounds when their
children are at Kids Quest. In practice, many parents go casino-hopping
along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
"They shut it down at 11 p.m. and they're still paging for parents at 3,
4, 6 a.m.," Payne said.
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