I’ve been exploring the global gambling market from a journalistic standpoint for many years now, and it never ceases to amaze me when the horrifically bad parenting skills of some gamblers are exposed. Last month, the mother and father of two young girls, ages 6 and 8, locked their children in an SUV for 90 minutes while they played the pokies (or slot machines, as Americans call them) at Resort World Casino in Queens, New York.
33 year old Maria Loja and 34 year old Segundo Japa, both of Brooklyn, NY, decided to make a stop at the local casino on the evening of Friday, August 4, 2015. Instead of doing the decent thing and hiring a babysitter for their children, or dropping them off at a family member’s house for the night—as any responsible parents would do—they chose to bring them along for the ride.
Of course, children aren’t permitted to enter a gambling establishment in the state of New York (or anywhere else, as far as I know, unless it offers daycare service). Police reported on Saturday that the parents instead elected to leave the young girls in the SUV, locking the doors behind them.
Just before midnight, a casino security guard who was patrolling the area spotted the girls alone in the back seat of the couple’s sports utility vehicle. He immediately proceeded to notify the local authorities, who rushed to the scene, released the children from the locked car and entered the casino in search of their parents.
Maria Loja (33), Segundo Japa (34)
photo courtesy nypost.com
Loja and Japa were immediately taken into custody, each charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Both girls were escorted to Jamaica Hospital where they passed a health evaluation, after which they were released into the custody of the NY Administration for Children’s Service.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be the first time the couple has left their young girls unattended. According to a neighbor, Loja and Japa have left their children home alone on several occasions, at least.
They are “not bad people”, the neighbor said. “They do work hard, but they are known to leave their kids alone… The mom will go to the store or go out and leave the kids home.”
Under Article 260, Section 10 of New York Penal Law, endangering the welfare of a child is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a potential punishment of up to $1,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.
Other Cases of Bad Parenting by Pokies Players
On June 10, 2014, a most atrocious case of child neglect was unveiled by police from the small town of Nanango, located in the South Burnett region of Queensland, Australia. A 58 year old woman was accused of leaving her two grandchildren alone in the car while she spent at least half an hour playing the pokies at the Fitzroy Hotel across the street.
The grandmother (who went unnamed to protect the identity of the children) was arrested after a passerby noticed two extremely young children, who turned out to be only 1 and 3 years of age, screaming in the back seat of the car. For her crime, their grandmother was verbally reprimanded and sentenced to 12 months’ probation.
Another incident occurred on August 20, 2014, when a 30 year old man was arrested for leaving three children, including one infant, unattended for approximately 45 minutes while he played blackjack at the Sands Bethlehem casino in Pennsylvania, USA.
The accused was jailed for two months until his hearing, at which time the judge—who determined the defendant to be genuinely regretful of his crime—released him on ‘time served’, ordering that he take parenting classes.