Saturday, August 28, 2004

Self-Excluded Gamblers Mistakenly Sent Promotional Material

The Missouri Gaming Commission has fined Harrah's North Kansas City $25,000 for mistakenly sending marketing materials to hundreds of people who had voluntarily signed up on Missouri's list of excluded gamblers. People on the list are denied entrance to Missouri casinos, and could even face arrest for trespassing if they do visit a casino. They are also supposed to be excluded from receiving gambling promotions in the mail, but, well, mistakes were made. The Motley Fool has the story.

From the Motley Fool article I followed the link to Harrah's webpage on responsible gaming. I learned that Harrah's itself has two categories of voluntary exclusion. The self-exclusion option keeps you out of all Harrah's casinos. But there is also a self-restriction option that precludes you from receiving promotional material, or from employing credit or check cashing privileges at any Harrah's casino. The two levels sound like a great idea to me. I wonder if someday they will allow gamblers to voluntarily set loss limits at the time that they enter a casino? (Given the card tracking of betting that is now widespread, it is technically feasible to calculate losses.) I also think that slot machines should be programmed to detect potential problem gambling, and make occasional suggestions to bettors to slow down or even to implement a slowdown through technical means.

Incidentally, the president of Harrah's is a former professor at the Harvard Business School. He co-authored a fine book on, of all things, the Polish post-socialist transition.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Dark Side of Gambling

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is two-thirds of the way through a three-part series of articles on gambling problems. The series, "Out of Luck: Washington's Gambling Problem," tells some sad individual stories of people whose lives have been more-or-less ruined by gambling addictions. Today's main contribution to the series discusses the fact that Asian-Americans seem to be disproportionately represented among gamblers in Washington state.

Update, February 25, 2004: Part three is in today, and its two articles focus on treatment for problem gamblers. The first article concerns the underfunding of treatment for problem gamblers in Washington state, and includes claims that treatment is effective. There is also some discussion of self-exclusion, where a gambler who has a problem can voluntarily sign a form requiring him to stay away from a casino: "Self-exclusions at the Muckleshoot and Tulalip casinos, for example, are permanent. Once you sign a statement at the Muckleshoot Casino, you are permanently barred and face a possible trespassing arrest if you return."

The second article praises the efforts in Washington's neighbor, Oregon, towards treating problem gamblers: "Oregon law mandates that 1 percent of the state lottery's net proceeds are dedicated to a problem gambling fund."