Underage admissions to Valley Forge casino anger gaming board

The Valley Forge Casino (right) received a $200,000 fine last year for violating rules on special offers.
The Valley Forge Casino (right) received a $200,000 fine last year for violating rules on special offers. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 13, 2014

It was Memorial Day weekend of 2013, and Michael Bowman, president and chief executive of Valley Forge Casino Resort, was frustrated by recent episodes of less-than-stellar customer service at the King of Prussia casino.

In a bout of now obviously overzealous customer service, Bowman helped two young women who were hotel guests and banquet attendees gain access to the casino floor, even waving them through when a security guard held them up to check if they were old enough.

Then Bowman left to take a few days off.

Bad moves.

The women were only 20, not old enough to be on the casino floor.

To make matters worse, casino officials waited five days to notify regulators.

None of this went over well with members of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board at Wednesday's meeting in Harrisburg, where the board was asked to approve an agreement requiring Bowman to pay a $4,000 fine and participate in eight hours of education in areas of casino compliance and/or problem gambling.

Board member Gregory C. Fajt did not buy the story that Bowman was simply passionate to a fault about improving customer service at the casino, whose license includes access restrictions that most casinos don't face.

"I believe that there is pressure in this casino to drive people to the gaming floor, and I think these are the unintended consequences of pressure of that type," Fajt said.

The gaming board fined Valley Forge Casino $200,000 last fall for violating rules on special offers to attract customers. That was the single biggest fine imposed by the board.

Bowman told the board Wednesday that he thought the women he helped into the casino were at least 30 years old, and that it was an honest mistake.

"It was not intentional. It was simply me moving too fast," he said.

The board was not appeased. It voted unanimously to reject the consent order with Bowman, which means his punishment likely will be renegotiated with tougher terms.

The board also rejected consent orders with two other Valley Forge executives involved in the underage-gambling incident, but agreements appeared less likely to be renegotiated and resubmitted for board approval.

The company docked one of them two weeks of pay.

The board fined the casino itself $35,000.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved SugarHouse Casino's proposal to operate a temporary poker room while a $164 million casino expansion is under construction at the Fishtown facility.

The 7,350-square-foot temporary facility with 24 poker tables is expected to open in late August or early September and operate for at least 13 months.

SugarHouse's general manager, Wendy Hamilton, told the gaming regulators that she expected the $2.9 million temporary poker room to generate $11 million in revenue and $1.8 million in taxes to Philadelphia and the state.


hbrubaker@phillynews.com

215-854-4651

@InqBrubaker

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