Punch slot machine. Get banned from casino. Come back ten years later. Win $10,000. Lose it because of ban. Ask a jury for triple.

Casino self-bans are an example of a Nudge that we have liked for a long time. Not all gamblers, however, voluntarily put themselves on the banned list. One of them, Iowa truck driver Troy Blackford, caused this strange story out of the Des Moines Register (by way of Governing Magazine) in which banned gambler Blackford had $10,000 in winnings confiscated at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and sued to win them back – plus damages!

While celebrating his 28th birthday in 1996, Blackford punched a Prairie Meadows slot machine, breaking the glass, and earning a visit to a casino back room where he agreed to a lifetime ban for violent behavior. Blackford returned to the casino two years later, but was booted. In 2006, he went back again, this time winning $10,000 through slot machines. Again, Blackford was booted after he displayed identification to collect the money. His winnings were confiscated. This time, though, Blackford sued the casino for $30,000 (the original winnings plus damages), claiming that its promotional mailings lured him back, and that its employees didn’t kick him out until after he’d won the money. After a week-long trial, the jury, thankfully, disagreed.

At Prairie Meadows, about 60 percent of bans are self-imposed, while the other 40 percent are, like Blackford’s, imposed by the casino. Surely, some self-banned gamblers have returned to casinos, but it’s hard to imagine one claiming a right to a jackpot. Doing so would require considerable comfort with hypocrisy.

Addendum: Someone who should have put herself on a self-ban list. Instead she too is suing the casinos.


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