Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Self-Exclusion, Unabridged

Vice Squad has something of a fixation with self-exclusion, those programs whereby problem gamblers (or people who fear that they might become problem gamblers) can volunteer to be barred from access to casinos. I have a short article in the Winter, 2008 Milken Institute Review on self-exclusion, arguing that parallel programs should be part of the mix when the currently illegal drugs are legalised. That article was a by-product of a longer paper that I let languish in an unfinished state. But now I have finished it, after a fashion, and posted it on SSRN, free for the downloading. The longer version isn't really all that much longer -- it's 20 pages. If that is too daunting, here's the rather tepid abstract:
Gambling jurisdictions around the world have adopted self-exclusion programs in which gamblers can voluntarily agree to be barred from further gambling. The popularity of self-exclusion stems from its aid in combating problem or pathological gambling, along with its non-coercive nature. To bolster the self-control of problem gamblers, exclusion programs combine physical inaccessibility and reward diminution: bettors are supposed to remain (or be kept) away from gambling sites, and the gambling winnings of excluded bettors can be confiscated. Other elements of program design that can affect the workings of a self-exclusion program include the duration of an exclusion, its revocability, and the breadth of gambling activities to which the prohibition applies. Self-exclusion or broader user licensing programs can be helpful for control of vices other than gambling. I argue that self-exclusion should form an integral component of drug regulatory frameworks that offer substantial improvements over drug prohibition.
The title of the paper is tepid too: "Self-Exclusion". But the ideas, well, they are revolutionary (in a tepid sort of way).

Update: There were some annoying ersatz characters at the beginning of the abstract on the SSRN page, so I just made a bid to remove them. We'll see if this works...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Self-Exclusion is For Keeps in New Jersey

Vice Squad is a longtime fan of self-exclusion programs, those voluntary lists gamblers can join to be barred from entering casinos or collecting significant winnings if they do happen to sneak by. [Self-exclusion could profitably be employed for many vices, even the currently-illegal ones, I maintain.] Nevertheless, there are many ways in which existing self-exclusion programs can be improved, and lots of tricky issues concerning the details of their operation. Two issues concern the length of time over which an exclusion operates, and how to ensure that people do not self-exclude in a moment of intemperance. Both of these issues were under review in a recent New Jersey court case, in which a man was hoping to remove himself from Atlantic City's self-exclusion list. He signed up for a lifetime ban -- New Jersey also allows gamblers to choose one year or five year bans -- which he claims he joined impulsively. The erstwhile gambler was particularly distressed to learn (once he self-excluded) that those corporate Atlantic City casinos would not just exclude him from their Atlantic City locations, but from their casinos worldwide. This is a common practice. The court refused to remove him from the ban, which I think is probably the right decision.

Nevertheless, there are two obvious reforms that can help. First, people considering joining a self-exclusion list should be warned that their action might spillover to other jurisdictions. Second, long-term bans should themselves require a waiting period. A person who approaches a casino about self-exclusion should receive an immediate short-term exclusion, but for a lengthy term, he or she should have to take further action at a later date. (See the Blaszczynski, Ladouceur, and Nower suggestion noted here.) This action probably should be arranged to take place at a non-gambling locale, to reduce temptation.