Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Children's Casino Opens in Prague

Children's Casino Opens in Prague.

Hmmm... is Chuck E. Cheese a "casino"? The ball roll and mole whacking games are games of skill (cf. poker, of course) and not games of chance (blackjack, roulette, craps). The article is light on details, but it sounds to me like it's more the former than the latter (in spite of CardSquad's take on the story).

To further blur the line, however, the coolest Chuck E. Cheese "skill games" area I've ever seen was at Circus Circus in Vegas, just a chip's throw away from the blackjack tables.

Would you let a 14-year-old spend their allowance at Chuck E. Cheese?
Would you let a 14-year-old spend their allowance at poker?
Would you let a 14-year-old spend their allowance at blackjack?
Would you let a 14-year-old spend their allowance at roulette?

Where would you draw the line, and why? What if the kid's 10, or 6?

The first children's casino & amusement park in Prague has recently opened. The atmosphere in the casino resembles a real-life Vegas-style casino, with many electronic gambling machines. The main “audience" is made up of preschool children, who buy the casino's golden coin “counters.” The minimum purchase is 40 counters, with each one costing five crowns (approximately 20 cents).

In addition, the facility holds the Czech Republic's largest climbing frame and a wall for simulated mountain climbing. However, those two draw less of an audience – and even fewer profits – than the children's casino. When the children succeed in winning at the casino's games, they receive more chips, which they may use to play again or buy toys. Currently, the big jackpot is a kiddie version of a Harley Davidson motorbike, which costs 32,000 chips.

The casino, highly inspired by similar US venues, draws many controversial opinions from parents and psychologists. Some parents bring their children, along with big groups of their friends, to celebrate birthday parties. Some even return to the casino on a regular basis, bringing their children with them. However, many fear that the casino could cause their precious children to develop horrible gambling problems, which could ruin their future. They base this fear on the fact that many children “fall in love” with the gaming machines after just one visit and ask to return for another visit very soon.

One mother reported to a local paper that, although the casino could be a splendid thing, she fears the outcome might be bad. She continues allowing her child's visits to the casino because she doesn't want to spoil his fun. The head doctor of the ward for addiction treatment at the Prague-Bohnice psychiatric hospital, psychiatrist Karel Nespor, publicized his opposition to the children's casino, citing that, although the casino might seem harmless, it still amounts to gambling, which is illegal for people under the age of 18.

Others take the safe stand of the middle-ground. Psychologist Vaclav Mertin reported that he would neither fear nor support the casino. He claims that one must remember that children's future development depends on their family and parental upbringing as well, hinting that the casino alone cannot be held as the reason for gambling problems. Another psychologist advises parents to monitor their children, and not be worried unless kids begin spending their entire free time playing at the casino.

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