Isle of Capri, highway patrol concerned about students using fake IDs to enter casino

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fake IDs. They can be ordered on myriad websites or borrowed from a friend. Trying to use one at the new Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, though, will have quite different consequences than trying to pass one off at a local bar, say state troopers.

Not only will the person using the ID be arrested and prosecuted, the casino operators will face hefty fines.

Because Missouri's newest casino set to open in just over a month sits only blocks from a university campus where thousands of underage students live, both Isle of Capri and the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Gaming Division are concerned about students trying to use fake IDs to gain access to the casino's gaming floor, where patrons must be at least 21. To visit restaurants on the casino property, there are no age restrictions.

"We have a huge issue with it even in casinos that are not in close proximity to a college or university. It's a problem for us," said Sgt. Tim Hourihan, who is heading the highway patrol efforts at Isle's Cape Girardeau casino. "It's a problem for the casino, and they go through a lot of measures to make sure it doesn't happen. As much as I would like to say it's not going to be, I know in my heart that it is going to be a problem here."

Because all casinos have a constant law enforcement presence, there is zero tolerance for fake IDs.

"All of our employees are trained to recognize underage patrons. Additionally, anyone who appears to be under the age of 35 will be checked for ID," said Jill Alexander, Isle spokeswoman. Sophisticated electronic equipment will also be used to check IDs when the casino opens.

"Most times they look similar so they will borrow their friend's ID and attempt to get in that way," Hourihan said. "There is also the actual fraudulent IDs where the person's picture is on the ID, but their date of birth has been changed. Those are harder to detect. There's a zillion places on the Internet you can get a fake ID."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol Gaming Division is responsible for enforcing all laws and Gaming Commission regulations on the gaming floor of each casino in the state. Enforcement units have offices in each casino. The casino operators must reimburse the Missouri Gaming Commission quarterly for the cost of those services, said LeAnn McCarthy, public information coordinator for the Missouri Gaming Commission.

In addition to making sure casino patrons follow the laws, gaming agents must also make sure the casino operators are following regulations, Hourihan said.

Isle is expected to have about a dozen Missouri Gaming Commission staff -- about 10 highway patrol gaming agents and an electronic gaming device specialist and a clerical worker. Compliance audit and tax audit staff from the gaming commission will also travel there regularly, McCarthy said.

Because casinos are such heavily regulated environments, a person trying to use a fake ID at a casino will have a much different experience than if they were trying to use one at a downtown bar where there is a more casual environment, Hourihan said.

"Most bars will just refuse entry. When they come to the casino, there is a zero-tolerance policy and those people are arrested," he said.

Using false identification is a misdemeanor and the person who lent their ID will be arrested too, if present, Hourihan said.

"Believe it or not, sometimes you have parents that aid their underage children, you have friends, you have relatives, all kinds of situations," he said. "We take these situations very seriously."

So does the Missouri Gaming Commission, which just last month disciplined three casinos for underage violations.

Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which operates Lumiere Place in St. Louis, was fined $10,000 after an underage male patron used a fake ID to place bets at table games and buy alcoholic drinks.

Ameristar Casinos was fined $5,000 after a 19-year-old woman used a fake ID to enter the gaming floor and play slot machines for more than an hour at its Kansas City property.

Harrah's casino in Maryland Heights, Mo., was fined $10,000 after a 19-year-old used a fake ID and purchased alcohol. He did not gamble.

In 2011, the state police made 2,925 misdemeanor and 375 felony arrests at Missouri casinos, according to the Missouri Gaming Commission's annual report. Twenty-nine arrests were made last year at Lady Luck casino in Caruthersville, Mo., operated by Isle of Capri. Isle's Booneville, Mo., property had 70 arrests and its Kansas City property had 393 arrests. Lumiere Place had more arrests than any other casino in the state with 1,094.

The same year, Missouri's 12 casinos had more than 54 million admissions.

Hourihan has been meeting with Southeast Missouri State University officials to talk to them about discouraging students from trying to use fake IDs at the casino.

Dr. Ken Dobbins said the university met with gaming commission, highway patrol and Isle representatives and that he is looking forward to working with them on several long-term projects.

If the university is made aware of students using fake IDs, students would have to go through the university's judicial system where they could face sanctions.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

777 N. Main Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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