A reader critiques casino self-ban policies

Reader Joanne Fendell astutely points out some weaknesses of casino self-ban policies and offers possible improvements.

I believe that the use of self-exclusion can be quite useful for gamblers, but it doesn’t reach out to enough people. I live in Maryland. If I want to be self-excluded from Delaware Park, my nearest “gambling opportunity”, I have to register for the self-exclusion list in Dover, some 40 miles farther away. Similarly, I would have to travel to Casino Gaming Commission in Atlantic City or Trenton to be self-excluded from casinos in New Jersey. Both of these states require the prospective member of the self-exclusion list to sign up during normal business hours. The options are consistent from state to state: self-exclusion for one year, five years, or life. If the “life” option is taken, you can never be removed from the self-exclusion list.

Self-exclusion does not automatically expire upon the completion of the self-exclusion period. It is necessary for gamblers to petition to be removed from the list.

Pennsylvania took a positive step in their self-exclusion program by letting people sign up for self-exclusion at the casinos anytime. Unfortunately, this is not explained well on the web site of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, and the prospective member of the list will believe that they have to go to Harrisburg to sign up for self-exclusion. Pennsylvania has more self-excluded gamblers, about 700, after a year than New Jersey has after at least 20 years of the self-exclusion program, about 550. There is likely to be some overlap in the people on the lists.

There are unintended consequences to self-exclusion. Harrah’s casinos reserve the right to ban gamblers from all of their properties nationwide, not just the gaming floor, so sign up for one self-exclusion list, and you’ve signed up for self-exclusion everywhere that Harrah’s has a business presence. They won’t even let you stay at the property.

This can be inconvenient for business travel, if you need to attend a conferences that is held at a casino. There should be a way to petition for a week-long parole that lets you stay at the hotel, with the ban on gambling still in effect.

The virtue of self-exclusion can be seen in a saying of Oscar Wilde’s: “I can resist anything but temptation.” By signing up for self-exclusion, you are volunteering to be arrested. Most casinos treat violation of the self-exclusion ban as trespassing, so you may be escorted from the property of arrested. This may be why New Jersey and Delaware require the sign-up to be done at a non-casino site.

There is an easy way to fix this problem. Have a phone number at the casino that the person who wants to be removed from the list can call for an appointment.

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