Daily Archives: July 2, 2008

Is Canada a window into Missouri’s future?

Regardless of country or location, gambling addictions plague communities, harm families and should always be the key focal point of those with the power to help.  Canada is no different as they are dealing with thousands of addicted gamblers.  As a means of dealing with the growing problem, a self-exclusion program was developed whereby those with severe gambling addictions could volunteer to be placed on a list that excludes them from the casino.  The problem is that the casinos have no means of enforcing the self-exclusion list and they have now found themselves in serious legal trouble.  The Niagara Falls reviews explains:

A $3.5-billion class action lawsuit, which has yet to be certified, is in the works against the [Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp.] by problem gamblers who allege they have been allowed into some of the casinos and slots facilities in the province despite the fact they are taking part in a voluntary program to keep them out.

Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corp (OLG) established the list in 1999 and have over 10,000 registered patrons who are looking for help to stay out of the casinos.  The suit alleges that these people are not being kept from gambling, which of course is causing serious problems for them, their families and the surrounding communities.  The article continues:

The OLG says security people are trained to identify those who may be on the self-exclusion letter and every effort is made to spot them, but memorizing 10,000 names and faces is an impossible task.

They’re exactly right. With no system in place beyond attempts to recognize someone’s picture, it’s simply impossible to enforce a self-exclusion list.  Here in Missouri we could be facing the same problem.  As of right now we have the perfect system for enforcing the self-exclusion list – the $500 loss limit.  As noted in our policy brief titled “Missouri’s $500 Loss Limits: How it helps addicted gamblers,” each patron must swipe a boarding pass to enter a casino.  This pass is tied to a computer which monitors who is on the self-exclusion list and effectively keeps them off the gambling floor.

Obviously Canada should look to Missouri law and develop a similar system but what does this scenario mean for Missouri?   Obviously if the loss limit is removed we will not only lose the ability to track those who so desperately reached out for help thereby experiencing all the terrible tragedy that compulsive gambling brings, but we could also see the courts clogged with litigation brought against the Missouri Gaming Commission or specific casinos.  The initiative petition which seeks to remove the loss limit will have serious consequences and this is just one more reason why it ought to be rejected.