From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Family Values in a Grand Casino

From George Conklin <>
Date 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   
years old.

 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   
or puzzles.

 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   
arcade games."
 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   
pamphlet said.
 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.

                                * * *

Tom Price

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