State, Casino Reach Accord On Underage Violation

BERLIN — The Casino at Ocean Downs late last week reached a Consent Agreement with state lottery officials after allegedly allowing underage patrons to enter the facility and play the video lottery terminals (VLTs) including a $10,000 fine and the promise to take measures to prevent it from happening again.

Three of Maryland’s operating casinos, including the Casino at Ocean Downs in Berlin, the Hollywood Casino in Cecil County and the Maryland Live casino in Anne Arundel County in January were cited for alleged violations of state gaming laws for allowing underage individuals to enter the facilities and play VLTs. In January, the Maryland Video Lottery and Gaming Control Commission issued separate Notices of Violation against the three casinos. In the Casino at Ocean Downs’ case, the notice issued on Jan. 16 asserts the alleged infractions were serious enough to warrant some enforcement action.

“The Notice of Violation alleged that on two separate occasions, underage individuals were admitted into the casino and onto the gaming floor, and that some of those underage individuals engaged in gaming on VLTs,” the Consent Agreement reads. “The Notice of Violation asserted that these actions violated the gaming law and regulations promulgated thereunder and these actions were sanctionable.”

According to documents, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission and the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) regulate the operation of the state video lottery terminals and table games and are responsible for ensuring the games and the facilities are conducted legally. If a licensee violates a provision of the gaming law, a regulation promulgated by the commission, or a directive of the commission or the director of the MLGCA, the commission is authorized following a hearing to take action against a licensee that may include suspension or revocation of a license or levying a civil penalty for each violation.

The commission may also take other enforcement action such as a corrective action plan, a reprimand or the imposition of a condition on a lease. The commission may also agree with a licensee to reach a settlement to resolve a violation. In the case of the Casino at Ocean Downs, along with two other operating casinos in Maryland, the latter was the solution to the alleged violations in the form of the Consent Agreement.

Essentially, the Consent Agreement serves as a means to resolve the issue without going through the formal hearing process. The commission formally approved the Consent Agreement during its regular monthly meeting last Thursday.

“This Consent Agreement is being entered into as a means of settling the alleged violations and avoiding the potential expense and inconvenience of a formal hearing,” the agreement reads. “There has not been a formal finding as to the merits of the allegations in the Notices of Violation. This Consent Agreement does not constitute an admission or denial by either party that a violation of law or regulation has occurred.”

In the Consent Agreement, the commission exercised its right to impose a fiscal penalty on the Casino at Ocean Downs.

“Upon the Commission’s final approval of this Consent Agreement, and no later than 10 days after, the Casino at Ocean Downs shall remit payment of $10,000 to the Commission,” the agreement reads. “Upon receipt of payment from the Casino at Ocean Downs, the Commission will close these matters. The Casino at Ocean Downs will continue to take appropriate measures to prevent underage individuals from entering the casino.”

Another provision in the agreement acknowledges the Casino at Ocean Downs has taken steps to avoid similar infractions in the future.

“The Casino at Ocean Downs has taken corrective measures to restrict underage individuals from entering the casino,” the Consent Agreement reads.

The Consent Agreement reached between the commission and the Casino at Ocean Downs is almost word-for-word the same agreement reached between the commission and the other two casinos to receive similar notices of violation in January, with the exception of a few details in the background of the cases. However, the consent agreements differ in terms of penalties and sanctions with the Casino at Ocean Downs receiving the toughest penalty.

For example, the Notice of Violation for the Hollywood Casino at Perryville in Cecil County also includes two alleged cases of underage patrons entering the casino and playing the VLTs, yet the Hollywood Casino was only in its consent agreement to take corrective measures to prevent future violations and no monetary fine.

The Maryland Live casino’s notice of violation included just one alleged case of allowing underage patrons to enter the casino. Maryland Live also was ordered to take corrective measures to prevent future infractions, but was only fined $1,000 by the commission.