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Casino ejects nursing mom, invites wrath of Facebook

(Jan. 9, 2015) Two family members, armed with a bottle of pre-pumped milk, wanted to give new parents Alanna Panas and Chris Turnbull a break from 7-week old Lillian, and offered to take her on some errands while the couple relaxed a little at the Casino at Ocean Downs.

Lillian was hungrier than that. She drank the bottle and soon demanded more.

Panas said relatives brought the baby back to the casino, located her, but were unable to provide space in the already-crowded car for nursing. Thinking the family truck would be more comfortable; Panas said she realized Turnbull, still inside, had the keys.

So she walked back into the foyer of the casino to find Turnbull, but was stopped by security guards because the baby was not 21, and therefore could not be on the gaming floor. Panas said she returned to the enclosed lobby area with the child without incident, until Lillian reminded her she was still hungry.

Seeing no alternative, Panas began nursing her daughter. Lillian was satisfied, but casino security, Panas said, was not. Despite being allowed in the foyer while not nursing her daughter, Panas said she was swarmed by security urging her to leave the property once she began.

Maryland code has two relevant sections governing breastfeeding of children. Under Maryland code, title 20, subtitle 8(a), “A mother may breast-feed her child in any public or private location in which the mother and child are authorized to be.”

Subtitle 8(b) provides, “A person may not restrict or limit the right of a mother to breast-feed her child.”

“My legal opinion is the casino is on shaky ground,” Worcester County Attorney J. Sonny Bloxom said.

Turnbull said he has contacted an attorney, and Panas herself has gone to sympathetic Facebook groups who have gleefully admitted to pelting Ocean Downs with 1-star reviews based on Panas’ account.

Casino General Manager Joe Cavilla refused to comment on Panas’ account until he had conducted his own investigation into the matter. The foyer of the casino appears to be equipped with security cameras. No videos have been released.

The casino’s public relations firm, Tipton Communications, has issued a brief statement concerning the issue.

“The Casino at Ocean Downs strives to make our guests’ experiences enjoyable, and if any member of our team acted in a manner that did not promote that experience, we apologize. We will be reaching out to Ms. Panas directly to discuss her concerns,” it reads.

Panas confirms she was contacted by a female member of casino staff identifying herself as the “Assistant Executive Director,” which doesn’t line up with any job titles listed on Ocean Downs’ website.

“She said the reason was not due to me breastfeeding but because I was a security threat. She said I could have been trying to sneak a minor onto the gaming floor,” Panas said.

Additional calls to the casino and Tipton Communications were not returned.

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