Recent Amber Alert Highlights Child Neglect & Gambling Issues In Oklahoma, Advocates Say

Wednesday, September 22nd 2021, 5:00 pm

Police issued an Amber Alert about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday after a woman said a man stole her car with her little boy inside. 

It all happened while the boy's mother was inside a casino. She reportedly last saw her son about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

While thankfully the child was unharmed, he should have been safely tucked under his covers instead of in a casino parking lot, the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy said

"A child is left in a vehicle because of gambling. That's just ridiculous. That should never happen," said OICA CEO Joe Dorman. 

Police said Seth Grant stole a car parked outside of a Newcastle casino with the 10-year-old boy inside while his mother was gambling. 

Dorman said the circumstances point to something is all too common in Oklahoma.

"You can easily speculate that this was an addiction issue," Dorman said. "It's highly likely this was not the first time, it was just the first time to get caught, and we see this far too often where people just let it slide more and more."

Police found the car, Grant, and the child were safe and sound several hours after he was last seen, but this isn't the first time a child has been left in a casino parking lot. In 2019, a 5-year-old died after his grandmother left him in the car for six hours in Harrah. It was about 90 degrees that day.

"We do know from our security personnel at the casinos, that it (children left in cars) does happen frequently," said Wiley Harwell, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Problem Gambling and Gaming.

Historically, Oklahoma has had a higher gambling addiction rate than the national average, and it's aided by the more than 130 casinos throughout the state, Harwell said. 

He also said kids are left in casino parking lots and hotel rooms while their parents gamble is so frequent, casino employees are trained to look out for signs of child neglect.

"This came as a concern from the casino employees themselves," Harwell said. "We encourage our casino employees to get to know their customers as well as possible that way they might see something or hear something that's significant."

Harwell said most people with gambling problems don't seek help until consequences start to add up, and there are national and local resources for those who need help. 

The 24/7 hotline is 800-522-4700. 

Anyone who is at a casino and sees something suspicious is asked to notify casino security.