Police issued an Amber Alert around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday after a woman said a man stole his car with his baby boy inside.
It all happened while the boy’s mother was inside a casino. She reportedly saw her son for the last time around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
While luckily the child was not injured, he should have been safely hidden under his blankets rather than in a casino parking lot, the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy said.
“A child is left in a vehicle because of the game. It is just ridiculous. It should never happen,” said Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA.
Police said Seth Grant stole a car parked outside a Newcastle casino with the 10-year-old boy inside while his mother played.
Dorman said the circumstances indicate that something is too common in Oklahoma.
“You can easily assume that this was an addiction issue,” Dorman said. “Chances are it wasn’t the first time, it was just the first time to get caught, and we see this far too often where people let her slip more and more.”
Police found the car, Grant, and the child safe and sound several hours after his last visit, 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 know from our casino security personnel that this (children left in cars) happens a lot,” 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 is helped by more than 130 casinos statewide, Harwell said.
He also said children are left in casino parking lots and hotel rooms while their parents gamble so often that casino employees are trained to spot signs of child neglect.
“It came as a concern of the casino employees themselves,” Harwell said. “We encourage our casino employees to know their customers as well as possible so that they can see or hear something important.”
Harwell said most people with gambling problems don’t seek help until the consequences start to pile up, and there are national and local resources for those who need help.
The 24/7 hotline is 800-522-4700.
Anyone who is in a casino and sees something suspicious is urged to notify casino security.