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Man Accused Of Leaving Kids In Car While Gambling

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A man in Missouri is accused of leaving his girlfriend's 6-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl in the car while he was gambling inside of a casino on Jan. 29.

Casino security say they noticed the kids alone in the car at night, reports KTVI.

They were reportedly able to quickly track down the vehicle's owner, a 36-year-old unidentified man, within 20 minutes.

After searching the vehicle and finding drugs, the suspect was taken into custody.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has not filed formal charges against the man.

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The children were unharmed.

It is not the first time adults have gotten into trouble with authorities after leaving children in the car while they went gambling.

Alfredo Florez and Christina Pedraza were arrested after leaving their two babies in the car to play in an Illinois casino, WMAQ reports.

Officers say they found a 3-month-old child and a 1-year-old child alone and crying in a car parked in the casino's garage. The doors were unlocked and the windows were shut.

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Initially, the mother said she had left the kids with their father, who claimed he had gone inside to use the bathroom.

Yet the father smelled of alcohol and "was unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred," according to the police report.

Security footage from the casino later revealed the two had been gambling.

Each were charged with two counts of felony neglect of a dependent, and Child Protective Services took custody of both children.

According to safety awareness group Kids and Cars, such cases are becoming increasingly common, reports The Baltimore Sun.

The group says they have documented more than 300 cases of child abandonment at casinos nationwide since 2000.

Organization founder Janette Fennell says it's likely that number is even higher because they "only find out when it is covered by the media."

Experts say an addiction to gambling may be partly responsible.

"If you get so caught up in gambling and forget that your child has been in the car for several hours, you have a serious problem," Maryland State Delegate Nick Mosby said. "It's not an anomaly."

Keith Whyte, executive director of the The National Council on Problem Gambling, agrees.

"It's a pretty common consequence of gambling addiction that you become so preoccupied that you lose track of time, so the kid stays in the car," explained Whyte. "They create an immersive environment where there is not a lot of outside stimuli."

Fennell believes prosecutors should seek penalties "every time a child is knowingly left in a vehicle" and pushes for child care in casinos.

Sources: KTVI,WMAQThe Baltimore Sun / Featured Image: Raul654/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons, Poliander80/Wikimedia Commons

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