Pittsburgh is in the midst of one of those hysterical episodes that seem cosmically bestowed just to give rant-worthy material to indignant talk shows hosts.
A 30-year-old area woman is facing negligence charges for locking her 9-year-old son in the car while she went inside a local casino to claim a $10 gambling voucher.
I know, I know. On its face, it looks terrible. And, truly, Valerie E. Snyder made a terrible mistake.
She should never have locked her son in the car.
She should have locked him in the trunk where no one would have seen him.
Let’s break this one down.
First of all, this happened at 10 p.m. on the sixth floor of the Rivers Casino parking garage right near PNC Park where she had taken the boy to a Pirate game.
The latter warms my heart. My mommy never took me to a Pirate game. Or a casino, for that matter. So for about eight hours prior to being branded a negligent mother, she was being an absolutely wonderful mother, one any son would adore.
And while they’re there singing “Take Me Out To the Ballgame!” and trying to snag a foul ball and snacking on — talk about criminal acts — $5 bags of peanuts, the promoters of Rivers Casino arrange to give her a $10 voucher for free gambling.
I don’t know the particulars of the giveaway, but it’s not risky to infer they gave them to all 35,000 people in attendance. But let’s say they gave them to just 2,500 or so who bought programs.
That’s a $25,000 promotion, a lot of scratch for any business.
Well, any business besides a casino.
They give away $10 vouchers — redeemable for only 24 hours — because they know most of the people who use a $10 gambling voucher will wind up spending at least five times that amount.
Now, I don’t know the Snyder family situation. I saw the tearful husband on TV and if he has a well-paying job then he has an eccentric affinity for dressing like a man who does not.
The Snyders live about 45 minutes from the casino and returning the next day would likely require her to pay for a sitter and again for parking.
Here’s where I put myself in her shoes.
She could either prepare herself for a next day hassle or she could dash in the casino, redeem the voucher and then one day come back and — cross your fingers — play a hand that will forever change the fortunes of the Snyder family.
So she did what casinos everywhere urge her to do.
She took a chance and crapped out; a passerby saw the boy and alerted security.
Me, I see extenuating circumstances that help me sail through jury selection without any defense challenges.
This wasn’t some 18-month-old kid strapped into a car seat in sun-baked parking lot. It was evening and 65 degrees.
And the kid was 9. That’s an age when many of today’s children start to smoke, dabble in porn and begin exhibiting the kind of behaviors that ensure the casinos will never go broke.
My favorite part of the story is the sanctimonious statement the casino issued: “We can’t stop parents from making bad decisions; but we are vigilant in our efforts to prevent this from happening . . . This individual will receive a lifetime ban from our casino. We take this issue very seriously.”
Of course, they don’t mean that. They want all of us to gamble away our every last cent then mortgage our homes in the hopes our luck might turn.
Me, I’m not going to judge Mrs. Snyder.
But I do have some salient advice for the casino operators. I do this because I understand the pivotal role gambling revenues play in funding the for-profit arenas legislators are bribed into erecting because they’re too stupid and lazy to discern responsible ways to govern.
The Rivers needs to open the Valerie E. Snyder Casino Daycare Center!
Parents would be allowed to drop off their kids at the free daycare center and spend the day draining their paychecks into games of chance.
You could probably get Nike to co-sponsor it.
A Nike outlet in a casino daycare center would be a perfect place for whenever baby needs a new pair of shoes.