Friday, August 19, 2011

Committing to Getting Out of Bed

While gambling self-exclusion programs are aimed at preventing an undesired behavior, some commitments are aimed at motivating a desired behavior. (There's a bit of arbitrariness here, of course, as committing to doing something is like committing to not doing any of the alternatives.) My suspicion is that it might be easier to honor a commitment not to do one well-specified thing -- don't go to a casino -- than it is to commit to doing something -- say, working more -- because there are many alternatives to working. There's only one way to violate the no gambling pledge, but many ways not to work. But the alternative to getting out of bed is pretty much just staying in bed, so a positive commitment to getting out of bed might work pretty well. Indeed, I keep my alarm clock away from my bed to provide a small commitment to achieving verticality in the morning.

That scheme might not be enough, however. Do not despair, as technology has progressed to the point where you can raise the stakes of not getting up. The SnūzNLūz alarm clock allows you to precommit to making a donation to a cause you loathe -- an anti-charity -- every time you hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. SnūzNLūz users will either be prompt at getting out of bed, or the revenues of various presidential libraries will soar.

Foreign Workers in Singapore Flock to Self-Exclude

The Self-Exclusion blog speculated that foreign workers in Singapore might feel a bit of pressure from their employers to self-exclude from the Singapore casinos, and this is one prediction that seems to have been borne out: "many Singaporer companies are refusing to renew their foreign employees work permits unless they agree to give the casinos a wide berth."

The excluded list is not public, so how do employers know that their employees have self-excluded? The employer-assisted procedure involves an application form that is filled out in part by the employer, and in part by the employee, and signed by both parties. The completed form is submitted by the employer, however. Employers, therefore, can monitor whether their employees fill out and sign their portion of the form.

Singapore's National Council on Problem Gambling goes to great lengths to stress that these employer-facilitated exclusions must be voluntary on the part of the employee. But just how voluntary are they if an employee who won't agree to self-exclude will not get to keep his or her job? Here's the claimed purpose of the program:
The Consolidated Foreigner Form is to facilitate/assist employers to help their foreign workers apply for self-exclusion from the casinos. This is because many foreign workers, especially Work Permit holders, may not be proficient in English or our other official languages. They may not be aware that they can opt to exclude themselves from the casinos or understand how to apply for exclusion orders. Therefore, we are providing this option for employers to facilitate/assist their foreign workers to apply for self-exclusion.
The amazing popularity of the program with foreign workers suggests that in practice, the employer-facilitated process is more about employer coercion than about empowering foreign employees to satisfy their latent desires to self-exclude.

The same article linked above gives the overall exclusion numbers in Singapore, circa July, 2011:
In total, around 18,000 self exclusion orders are now in place at Singapore’s casinos, of which 70% are from foreigners. In addition to the 12,660 foreign workers excluded from the casinos, the number of locals excluding themselves from visiting Singapore’s casinos has also risen from 3,500 to 5,389.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Involuntarily Unwelcome, but not Excluded

Singapore and parts of Australia allow family members to initiate an inquiry that could result in a family member being excluded from casinos. The overriding of individual autonomy makes such programs more objectionable, to my mind, than voluntary self-exclusion programs. In “Handling Corporate Social Responsibility: A Third Way,” (Gaming Law Review and Economics 14(5): 355-361, 2010), William N. Thompson offers a compromise that North American casinos might want to consider. Family members can initiate an inquiry that could result, not in a gambler being excluded, but in a gambler being made to feel unwelcome or worse. (These consequences would be implemented for gamblers whose betting was creating significant harms for him- or her-self or for others.) Such unwelcome folks would be removed from all marketing campaigns, denied credit from the casino, and not allowed to collect large jackpots. (These three sanctions are standard elements of self-exclusion, too.) But the unwelcome would be allowed into casinos. Thompson suggests that toleration of their (unwelcome) presence could be at the discretion of the casinos: "They could be asked to leave casino premises at any time by casino authorities without any legal recourse." If casinos are generally intolerant of the unwelcome visitors, then the compromise begins to look a lot like an involuntary, third-party exclusion.