Police: Man leaves son in car while gambling in Horseshoe Casino

Published: Jan. 8, 2015 at 10:50 PM EST
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Incidents in which children were left in the car at Horseshoe Casino (FOX19)
Incidents in which children were left in the car at Horseshoe Casino (FOX19)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A man is in the Hamilton County jail after he allegedly left his son in the car while he went into Horseshoe Casino to gamble.

Police records state that Dontae Smith, 34, was arrested around 10 a.m. Thursday for leaving his 6-year-old son in his car while he was gambling in the casino.

The temperature at that time was 3 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The wind chill was 12 degrees below zero.

FOX19 investigates looked into this very problem in May. We found that, from March 2013 to May 2014, there were five reports of children left alone in cars while their parents or guardians were in Horseshoe Casino. None of those reports led to arrests.

[RELATED: FOX19 Investigates: Children left alone in casino lots]

Police calls from the Hollywood Casino detail the same problem. In one report, the officer wrote "..three kids were left alone in a car." The children reportedly said they'd been inside "…the vehicle for three hours and had to go to the bathroom…" that "Grandma had done this before and they were told to lie on the floor and hide." According to the report, casino surveillance video cameras caught the grandmother playing roulette almost the entire time.

In 2012 and 2013, Lawrenceburg Police responded six times to the Hollywood Casino on reports of unattended children in vehicles. In two cases, police arrested parents or guardians for neglect.

During the time of that story, a spokesperson for the Caesars Entertainment, the parent company of Horseshoe Cincinnati, sent FOX19 an email statement that read:

"Horseshoe Cincinnati takes numerous measures to ensure that all guests inside the casino are 21 or over. The casino security team also continuously patrols the property and works closely with the Cincinnati Police Department to ensure the safety of all patrons on our property."

A representative with Penn National Gaming, the company that owns and operates Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg, told FOX19 the casino takes the issue seriously. As a member of the American Gaming Association, the casino follows a code of conduct that includes a clause to work to prevent underage unattended minors. The representative also added the casino has surveillance cameras and patrols that go through the lots.

"We're appalled that careless parents and guardians would leave their children in cars unattended. Our security personnel are committed to preventing this from happening. Ultimately, parents and caregivers are responsible for not leaving their children unattended in vehicles, not just at casinos, but also at grocery stores, malls, movie theaters and anywhere else," said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association.

Smith is charged with endangering children and is currently being held at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

It is unknown if the car, or the heat, was on while the child was in there.

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