Parx Casino is now screening gamblers for guns and could ask visitors carrying firearms to exit the state's busiest gaming hall.
At all three entrances, casino visitors are now funneled between slim silver columns and can be stopped by Parx security to search suspicious bags.
Several months ago, Parx owners approached the Bensalem Police Department about plans to install the machines, said William McVey, public safety director for the township.
"We very much support them in this," said McVey. "This is a proactive measure that can prevent an incident in the casino involving a firearm."
As with any business, Parx can ask patrons with firearms to leave the property. For many years, Parx has posted signs asking customers not to enter the property with guns, McVey said.
Parx is now the fourth casino in the state to screen gamblers for guns, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Detectors were installed at Rivers Philadelphia, Rivers Pittsburgh, and Live! Philadelphia, said Doug Harbach, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
"This is for the safety and security of our guests and employees," said Carrie Nork Minelli, spokesperson for the casino. "Following the lead of the Philadelphia casinos and other large attractions in the area, we have put in metal detectors that are calibrated to sense firearms or other metal weapons but not bother keys or phones."
Rising gun violence in Philadelphia has been well documented, but gun crimes have not been limited to the city. Bensalem police also are reporting more incidents involving guns.
In 2021, Bensalem police reported 17 assaults and robberies with a firearm. Only nine were reported in the prior year prior.
Township police also reported 47 incidents involving weapons possession in 2021, as compared with just 21 incidents in 2020.
Pennsylvania State Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment on safety in the casino. Under Pennsylvania law, state police provide law enforcement coverage on the casino floor. Bensalem police are responsible for everything outside the casino floor.
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Casinos are among the most secured and surveilled locations on the planet with thousands of cameras. In addition to Bensalem police and state police, Parx security guards also roam the parking lots in white SUVs.
Shortly after opening in 2008, the casino invited this news organization onto the third-floor casino security center with dozens of television monitors and cameras so advanced they can zoom in close enough to catch the serial number on your $20 bill.
Every year, the state police division at Parx files uniform crime reports. No incidents were reported involving firearms. The most common crimes on the casino floor are theft, forgery and the use of counterfeit bills, state police have previously stated.
The metal detectors were installed on Sept. 17, according to the state.
"Since the detectors obviously are mostly installed to catch weapons, I want to note that all casinos also have clear signage at the entrances that weapons are not permitted in the casino," Harbach said.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Parx Casino installs metal detectors to screen gamblers for guns