Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pro-Active Self-Exclusion

A couple weeks ago I mentioned my article in the current Milken Institute Review concerning self-exclusion, those systems available in many casinos whereby you can bar yourself from the premises for some period of time. More than 11,000 people have signed up for lifetime bans from riverboat casinos in the state of Missouri. (The voluntary exclusion applies to all of the state's casino boats.) I think that buyer licenses or self-exclusion programs should be part of the regulatory structure when the currently illicit drugs are re-legalized.

I mention in the Milken article that self-exclusion programs do not have to be passive. Casino employees or representatives of the gambling commission can keep their eye on potential problem gamblers, and hold an impromptu chat with them. (Attendance records and betting information from frequent-player programs also can be put to use for this purpose.) This sort of pro-active mechanism is used at Dutch casinos, and many of those gamblers who are approached for a chat choose to self-exclude. I think that active self-exclusion (and involuntary exclusion for bad actors) might be a good idea when drugs become legal, too, as I note in the Milken piece:
Individuals who misbehave under the influence of the drug would have their licenses revoked, or be involuntarily placed on the excluded list. One could even imagine a requirement of annual evaluations for drug-license holders to determine how they are coping with the drug, and to counsel lower limits, complete self-exclusion or treatment admission for those whose drug use appears to be getting the better of them. That is, self-exclusion could be active, like at Dutch casinos, and drug sellers could be drafted into the activity of barring their best customers – a far cry from their current behavior.
When I first mentioned the Milken article, I noted an unfortunate typo in the second word. I just downloaded a pdf from the website, however, and I find that the typo has been repaired! (Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that this alteration was possible -- in a lifetime of typos, what is one more? -- so I did not contact the relevant authorities.) Bravo, Milken Institute Review!

Monday, February 4, 2008


Just a few days ago I called for the US military to set up a self-exclusion system for the slot machines that it operates on some of its foreign bases. (No word back yet -- apparently they have higher priorities.) But this whole self-exclusion thing is really catching on. Check out the fine article (available from this page after free registration) in the current Milken Institute Review. The author notes -- oh, wait, I am the author. I note that self-exclusion systems typically combine two features, physical unavailability and reward diminution. In the case of casinos, the physical unavailability is supposed to come about when the casino bouncers prevent you from entering their fine establishment, or even have you charged with trespassing (as happens in some jurisdictions) when you try to evade your voluntarily chosen personal ban. Reward diminution occurs when you find, once you have managed to slip past security, that you will not be allowed to collect large jackpots. I don't think that self-exclusion systems currently work all that well in US casinos -- the system is better in the Netherlands -- but I think the general notion of self-exclusion holds significant potential. In particular, I think that when the currently illegal drugs are legalized, some sort of self-exclusion system -- perhaps licenses for drug users, and a chosen purchase limit -- will (and generally should) be part of the mix.

The Milken Institute Review article starts off with a delightful anecdote (by golly, it is delightful) about famed poet and opium addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who tried (unsuccessfully) to set up his own self-exclusion system by hiring goons to bar his entrance into pharmacies. (At the time in the UK, opium was legally available without a prescription.) When Coleridge really wanted opium, however, he would fire his agents on the spot, leaving them befuddled as to whether to obey the previous or the current Coleridge.

It is embarrassing when you make an error on the second page of a long publication. How about the second word? Somehow in the relating of this delightful anecdote, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was rendered, in large font, as Samuel Tyler Coleridge. Sigh. [Update: the wonderful folks at the Milken Institute Review corrected the typo, without bidding!]

Vice Squad has spoken about self-exclusion occasionally in the past, and hopes to speak more in the future -- assuming physical inaccessibility and reward diminution do not kick in.