Friday, April 26, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
PARENTS won't have to gamble on how to occupy the kids at the Stratosphere.
Kids Quest, a pay-by-the-hour licensed child care center, will open later this year during the resort's second phase.
It's a place where kids will be delighted to be dropped off, said Pete Guidera, Kids Quest vice president of marketing.
"The biggest problem is that kids don't want to leave when their parents come for them," he said.
The Plymouth, Minn.-based company operates youth centers in seven casinos throughout the country.
One of those is at Boulder Station, where children often are seen eagerly waiting for their parents to get lost.
Kids Quest offer games, computers, arcade games, books, toys, an indoor playground and an entertaining staff.
The $1 million, 15,000-square-foot Stratosphere Kids Quest will be on the second or third level of the resort. It tentatively will be open 10 a.m. to midnight and accommodate 325 children from age 12 weeks to 12 years.
Separate rooms are planned for infants and toddlers. The facility is aiming for a child-staff ratio of 4-to-1.
Fees haven't been set, although they typically average about $5 an hour.
Fifty to 75 employees will be hired and trained to make sure that fun and safety are the name of the game.
When children are checked in, information about them is logged into a computer, including health concerns, eating habits and who's allowed to pick them up.
Parents and children each receive identical UPC bar-coded stickers -- one is attached to the child's back. Then, the children pass the monitored security gate that only opens behind the counter, take off their shoes and jump into the fun.
"When the parents return, we ask for the sticker and a driver's license and we closely watch the reaction of the kids. We also scan the bar code for the kids' meals and snacks and then parents pay for everything when they return," Guidera said.
"Kids Quest was founded four years ago and we've never lost a child or given a wrong child to someone."
Casino child-care centers, however, are the subject of some debate.
Gaming executives worry about liability issues. Others think kids shouldn't be in casinos.
"But we're not putting kids in casinos. We're putting parents in the casinos while the kids are having fun at Kids Quest," Guidera said, recalling the familiar stories of exhausted small children waiting in casinos for mom and dad, or worse, being locked in cars in parking lots.
Guidera said 77 percent of Kids Quest's customers reported they would not have gone to the casinos if Kids Quest was not there.
"That's a total of 519,014 parents in seven locations. Obviously, we increase traffic to the casinos and increase the casinos' revenues," Guidera said, adding that the company is solely responsible for anything that happens inside Kids Quest.
Stratosphere Public Relations Manager Patricia Marvel said that although the Stratosphere isn't being marketed as a family resort, children are a concern.
"We're not out selling to families. But people do choose to bring the children and if that's the case then we want a safe and entertaining environment for the kids," she said.