Friday, April 29, 2011

Mandated Exclusion from Alcohol

An underused tool for drug regulation is to revoke (for some period of time) a person's right to consume a drug, if that person has previously been violent or otherwise seriously misbehaved under the influence of the drug. Drunk drivers often lose their right to drive, but not their right to drink. In the case of repeat DWI offenders, South Dakota has a program that is effective at removing the privilege to consume alcohol. One can imagine that people might sign up for voluntary alcohol exclusion or limitation (as they do for gambling), if the implementation (including enforcement) of the exclusion were not too onerous. I think that many people would welcome a cheap, transparent, easy-functioning ignition interlock device in their car, too -- most people (when non-intoxicated) are not anxious to drive when they are unsafe or liable for arrest, though they might drive drunk anyway in the absence of an enforceable pre-commitment. (OK, "pre-commitment" is sort of a redundancy, but it is a popular one!)

An important 1933 book on alcohol policy, by Fosdick and Scott, includes (page 49) some information about exclusion. They are outlining how they think legal licensed alcohol sellers should be regulated following the (then imminent) demise of Prohibition. (Fosdick and Scott prefer state monopoly stores to licensed sellers for distilled alcohol, but they nevertheless provide detailed suggestions for how a licensing system might best be implemented.) "Rules are also necessary forbidding sale to minors, habitual alcoholics, paupers, mental defectives and to anyone who is drunk." The quoted sentence concludes with a footnote, which among other things indicates that Rhode Island has a law in which "an order of interdiction is prescribed for persons receiving town aid and for those whose relatives have filed complaint." That is, the Rhode Island alcohol law exhibited features that are replicated in current gambling regulations in Singapore.

My interest in mandated as well as voluntary exclusion derives in large measure by my belief that the (future) regulatory system for currently-prohibited drugs should, in many instances, include these elements.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mandatory Gambling Limits in Australia?

Electronic gaming machines in Australia are slated to be retrofitted with card readers or other devices that will be able to keep track of a player's wagers. The idea is to enforce limits to gambling -- and it will be mandatory for gamblers to pre-specify those limits, at least if the central government gets its way. The proposal is meeting significant opposition, with pubs, clubs, and hotels that host gaming machines involved in the backlash. One of the animating developments behind the "mandatory pre-commitment" movement is the 2010 Productivity Commission report on gambling that (once again) showed the extent to which profits drawn from electronic gaming machines come from problem gamblers. From Chapter 5 (pdf here) of the report:

"Based on available survey data, there are between 80 000 and 160 000 Australian adults suffering significant problems from their gambling (0.5 to 1.0 per cent of adults), with a further 230 000 to 350 000 experiencing moderate risks that may make them vulnerable to problem gambling (1.4 to 2.1 per cent of adults).

Although there are substantial difficulties in calculating gambling expenditure, it is estimated that problem gamblers account for 22 to 60 per cent of total gaming machine spending (average of 41). The likely range for moderate risk and problem gamblers together is 42 to 75 per cent."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Enforcing Self-exclusion Through Facial Recognition

Ontario will soon be enforcing self-exclusion at its casinos via face recognition software, it seems. I am all for serious enforcement of self-exclusion programs, but I have to overcome some Big Brother-style fears when it comes to face recognition software. Apparently there are ways of keeping the information private? [PDF version, 23 pages, here.] I am late to this story, of course: here's a newspaper article from January that provides details. Humans will still make the final call on whether to approach a patron whom the computer has identified as on the exclusion list.