Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Committing Not to Procrastinate...

...or committing to write? A couple years ago Self-Exclusion used the example of a week-long dissertation writing-lock-in, one with $50 at stake for the volunteer participants, to muse on positive and negative commitments, commitments to do something versus commitments to refrain from doing something. A similar writing event was hosted by the University of Chicago this summer -- one of four now held every year. A new wrinkle is that the write-in was held off-campus, which presumably puts the usual quotidian distractions of the participating graduate students somewhat out of reach. After the four hours of work are complete, there's a lunchtime program:
The common barriers to writing—perfectionism and daily distractions—fall away through the program’s rigid structure and community spirit. During the lunch break, speakers from the many offices on campus that serve graduate students address common questions and problems, such as how to submit a dissertation or where to go for career advice on campus.
The community spirit angle is interesting, as it is a dimension that is missing from garden-style casino self-exclusion. It is a commonplace that gambling exclusion works better when it is paired with a treatment regimen, and perhaps the treatment in part serves as a source of social support.

Once again, $50 is at stake for the dissertation writers, and one of those lunchtime services consists of a free massage. Further, in what surely is a major incentive for U of C graduate students, those who put in the 20 hours of interruption-free work during the week receive a Latin-inscripted tee shirt:
And if the satisfaction of marching toward that PhD weren’t enough reward, the students who complete each session get a T-shirt from Graduate Student Affairs that says scribo, ergo conficiam—“I write, therefore I finish.”

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Illinois Video Gaming Terminals

The state of Illinois is rolling out legal Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs); soon they will number in the thousands, placed in bars and restaurants and bowling alleys and so on. VGTs will not be available everywhere in Illinois, however, as many municipalities, including Chicago, have opted out.

The machines are limited to a payout of $500; one credit can cost no more than 25 cents, and a single play (multiple lines are available) cannot put the gambler back more than $2. (The technical standards (38-page pdf here) surprisingly make for some interesting reading: no "near misses," for instance (page 24).) But the VGTs are noted on this blog because it appears that there is no self-exclusion program connected to them -- at least I could find no mention of an applicable exclusion program at the relevant sections of the Illinois Gaming Board website. Of course, the scores of small-scale locations -- no venue can have more than 5 VGTs -- makes it harder to enforce a casino-like "no presence and no play" version of self-exclusion. But the Illinois Lottery offers a "no wins" version that is considerably easier to implement, even if it is far from foolproof: when a self-excluded player tries to collect a large win, the necessity to provide a social security number presents the enforceable moment. Why not something like that for VGTs, requiring identification, say, to collect wins of $100 or more?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Self-Exclusion as an Ineffective Substitute for Self-Control?

Gambling self-exclusion programs prominently indicate that the responsibility to avoid gambling remains with the gambler, not with the program. For example, from the state of Maryland's Voluntary Exclusion Program: "The responsibility for staying out of Maryland casinos rests solely on the individual who voluntarily excludes and not with the Maryland Lottery or any Maryland casino." This notion is in keeping with a frequent mantra in addiction treatment, that the addict must accept responsibility for his or her behavior.

I chose the Maryland program because of this article, a version of which appeared on the front page of Sunday's Baltimore Sun (September 9, 2012). The article details the process of signing up for self-exclusion, and the reactions of some of the participants. One problem the gamblers identify -- not an uncommon one -- is the difficulty of signing up for self-exclusion at a non-casino location. About 40% of the people who volunteered to be excluded from Maryland casinos are from out of state. Currently, Maryland offers only a two-year ban or a lifetime ban; reinstatement following the end of the two-year ban requires some hoop-jumping: an application for reinstatement and evidence that the gambler has received counseling.

The Sun article concludes with an interesting observation from one gambling addict:
Bill S., a 48-year-old compulsive gambler from Fells Point who attends Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Towson, is among the contingent who believe that gambling addiction cannot be dealt with by external constraints. Especially when casinos are such a small piece of legal gambling in Maryland.
"I refuse to do it on principle," Bill said. "What am I going to do? Ban myself from all the gas stations and bars? Ban myself from the grocery store? If you want to stop gambling, it has to come from inside."
Bill identifies a dilemma of sorts. While self-exclusion has shown that it can be very effective for many disordered gamblers, it is never perfectly enforced, nor can it shut the door to all wagering opportunities. (Further, many (possibly most?) problem gamblers move away from problem gambling over time, without self-exclusion or indeed without any treatment -- natural recovery is common among addicts of all stripes.) For some subset of problem gamblers, self-exclusion, even if it works in keeping them away from excluded sites, may indeed undermine their internal mechanisms for controlling their gambling, mechanisms that might be needed for those non-excluded opportunities. As John Stuart Mill noted, "In many cases, though individuals may not do the particular thing so well, on the average, as the officers of government, it is nevertheless desirable that it should be done by them, rather than by the government, as a means to their own mental education—a mode of strengthening their active faculties, exercising their judgment, and giving them a familiar knowledge of the subjects with which they are thus left to deal." Do those problem gamblers who are most susceptible to the erosion of internal control mechanisms recognize this issue, and, like Bill, refrain from self-exclusion?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gamblefree Day and Kiwi Third-Party Exclusions

For the last eight years, September 1 has been Gamblefree Day in New Zealand, when problem gambling is highlighted. One of the methods that New Zealand has adopted to combat problem gambling is self-exclusion. The guidelines for exclusion seem very sophisticated, and they include provisions for casinos to involuntarily exclude suspected problem gamblers and for family members and other third parties to raise a call for increased scrutiny that could lead to an involuntary exclusion. As the guidelines note, "One of the most common indicators of problem gambling is notification from a relation, friend or family member of the patron." Many areas of New Zealand allow for multi-venue exclusions. In July, one locale with pokie machines was forced to turn off the machines for two days because a gambler seeking exclusion was not, in fact, excluded.

Skycity operates hotels and casinos in New Zealand. If a Skycity casino wants to exclude a suspected problem gambler, it gives the gambler a chance to voluntarily self-exclude first -- but given that a refusal to self-exclude will lead to an imposed two-year ban, it is hard to endorse the notion that such an exclusion is fully voluntary.

New Zealand also promotes responsible gambling by requiring slot machines to display a clock and the amount won or lost, along with reminders to take breaks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Class Action Back in Play for Ontario's Self-Excluders

A couple years ago Self-Exclusion noted that a Canadian court had refused to certify Ontario's self-excluded casino gamblers as a class for the purpose of a suit against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLGC). The claim is that the OLGC neglected a duty of care to prevent the self-excluded from violating their order by returning to casinos and gambling. (The significant revenue emanating from self-excluded gamblers who continue to gamble certainly could be a spur to mixed motives on the part of casinos or taxation authorities.) The court ruled that individual lawsuits could go forward (and some have been successful, in terms of monetary settlements), but that the circumstances of the self-excluded gamblers were sufficiently diverse that class status was inappropriate. That decision from two years ago was upheld once on appeal -- but now Ontario's highest court has agreed to hear an appeal of the earlier rulings.

In 2011, Ontario rolled out facial recognition systems to help enforce self-exclusion bans.

The responsible gaming section of the OLGC website offers links to some valuable videos discussing self-exclusion, as well as videos aimed at combating common gambling fallacies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Does Self-Exclusion Work?

This post will be updated as more "effectiveness" posts appear. I will put a link to this post on the sidebar, so that people interested in whether self-exclusion works can easily locate the relevant posts.

Does Casino Self-Exclusion Work (V)

Does Casino Self-Exclusion Work? (IV)

Does Casino Self-Exclusion Work? (III)

Does Casino Self-Exclusion Work? (II)

Does Casino Self-Exclusion Work? (I)

Does Internet Gambling Self-Exclusion Work?

All posts with label "effectiveness".

Does Internet Gambling Self-Exclusion Work?

Tobias Hayer and Gerhard Meyer were the source for a previous post on the effectiveness of casino self-exclusion. In 2011, they published an article that looked at self-exclusion from an Austrian internet gambling site (12-page pdf here). Internet gambling, in its currently fragmented state, would seem to be not all that fertile a ground for self-exclusion programs, at least those that apply to but a single e-gaming operator. Instead of having to drive to a different casino (and one owned by a different company), self-excluded e-gamblers would only have to establish an account at a different website. Further, there is some evidence that internet gamblers are more likely than bricks-and-mortar casino players to be problem gamblers. On the other hand, as internet gambling self-exclusion involves no face-to-face meetings, people concerned with their internet gambling behavior might be less shy than terrestrial gamblers about seeking out self-exclusion. (There are various routes to broader self-exclusion from internet gambling, too.)

Hayer and Meyer find that self-exclusion from a single internet casino tends to work, in the sense that gambling frequency, amounts, and problems decline following self-exclusion. The number of self-excluded gamblers who participated in the follow-up surveys is fairly small, so the results should not be relied upon too heavily. Nonetheless, the results are consistent with what we know about land-based exclusions, as well as our rudimentary pre-existing knowledge of web-gambling exclusion: internet self-exclusion seems to lead to reduced gambling problems.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Australia, Singapore, Britain Self-Exclusion Updates

(1) Australia continues to develop its program to allow gamblers to self-exclude from many venues simultaneously. They can choose whether to ban themselves from the entire club premises, or those parts of clubs where any gambling takes place, or only the rooms where pokie machines operate. (Self-Exclusion first noted this ongoing process some months ago.) The program was trialled in March, and expanded in New South Wales a couple months later. Australia is not immune from the common problem that the enforcement of self-exclusion agreements is spotty: some excluded patrons manage to gamble in violation of their agreements.

(2) Singapore is thinking of enhancing its problem gambling protections for citizens and permanent residents. "Under the proposed new regulation, any Singaporean (and [permanent resident]) who visits the casino more than five times in a given a month is considered a “high frequency” gambler. It may compel him to show that he is not in financial distress before being allowed to visit it the sixth time." (Casino visits are tracked in the Netherlands, too, and frequent gamblers are approached by staff to help assess the possibility of self-control issues and impose visit limits (see 35-page pdf here).) The linked article also notes that despite hosting only two casinos ("Integrated Resorts"), Singapore gambling revenues exceed those of Las Vegas, trailing only Macau on that metric. Singaporean locals have to pay a per-visit casino entrance fee of about $80, or purchase an annual casino pass for approximately $1600.

(3) The manifold shortcomings of the enforcement of self-exclusion in Britain are noted in this article. A bounty system for staff who identify a self-excluded gambler might be one element of improved enforcement.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Aussie Responsible Gambling Awareness Week

Australians gamble more than just about anyone else; click on the chart at this link for some flavor of the data. Responsible Gambling Awareness Week in Australia ended on May 20; here's some information from Victoria, with links at the bottom to activities in other states. Presumably because of the Awareness Week, media reports on problem gambling in Australia are blossoming: from NPR, and from some Aussie sources, too. In Tasmania, there is a move afoot to limit pokie bets to $1 per play. A gambling addict gave evidence on the $1 limit to a legislative committee. "He recommended the committee spend an hour inside a poker machine room at a pub or club. 'Watch them leave their souls at the door,' he said." One Tasmanian gambling reformer suggests a little physical nudge: don't let pokie players sit down.

Ohio Casino Self-Exclusion Kicks Off...

...and it has its first client: "He has proudly framed his letter from the commission notifying him that he’s barred from the casinos. He keeps it next to a photo of his deceased father, who had urged him to stop gambling." He has remained bet-free for more than 500 days.

The Ohio program allows gamblers to exclude for one year, five years, or for life. People who violate their exclusion order are subject to arrest and the loss of any winnings. When an exclusion order serves its time and expires, the reinstatement of gambling privileges requires that the gambler take the positive step of filling out a form to request reinstatement -- the default is continued exclusion. Sounds to me like Ohio has a good set of self-exclusion regulations.

The linked article indicates that Caesars Entertainment, which is operating the just-opened Cleveland casino, offers its own self-restriction program, along with self-exclusion. Self-restriction prevents the gambler from receiving marketing materials, and enjoins the casino from offering services such as credit or cashing checks to restricted customers. It appears that restrictees can choose more constraining rules, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Self-Reporting Self-Exclusion Enforcement Lapses

The purposely enigmatic title of this post refers to those occasions when a self-excluded gambler sneaks back into the casino, or is sent promotional material that is verboten under the exclusion agreement. The problem is, of course, that excluded gamblers are among the best customers for a casino. Casino owners, therefore, would seem to have a significant monetary incentive to look the other way when a self-excluder presents him or herself at the gambling venue. To counter this incentive, regulators subject casinos to fines when they fail to enforce exclusion agreements. An Illinois casino once was fined $800,000 for marketing to self-excluded customers.

The newest (and most popular) Illinois casino is the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which opened in July, 2011. It was a little slow in figuring out this self-exclusion thing, though: "In its first few weeks of operation, the northwest suburban casino sent promotional materials to four people, authorized two cash advances to one person and issued players’ rewards cards to seven others, all of whom are in the self-exclusion program, said Gene O’Shea, spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Board." The fine was $25,000, which represents a discount due to the self-reporting of the violations.

Attempted violations of self-exclusion orders are common. Rivers Casino, according to the linked article, caught 149 people on the self-exclusion list at the casino premises through March 1, 2012.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Aussie Pokies Controversy Boosts Self-Limitation and Self-Exclusion

We noted last month how the push for mandatory betting limits in Australia was, perhaps inadvertently, promoting enhanced self-exclusion as a sort of compromise from opponents of the mandatory limits. Voluntary self-limitation is another policy that is garnering support:
Australia's biggest pokies operator Woolworths has lobbied the federal opposition to tackle problem gambling with voluntary pre-commitment measures, despite the limited success of its own trial of optional bet limit cards....At last year's Woolworths annual general meeting, it was revealed only 11 per cent of registered players had taken up an offer of voluntary cards under the ALH trial, which started in 2009.
Eleven percent seems fairly significant to me. Meanwhile, in New South Wales, the potential to self-exclude from multiple venues, and to do so over the internet, also is being introduced:
WITH just the click of a button, problem gamblers living anywhere in NSW will be able to use a secure website to ban themselves from their local clubs....The technology allows problem gamblers to complete a legally binding self exclusion document in the presence of a gambling counsellor or a trained facilitator at their local club. Previously the individual had to visit each club individually.
Additionally, the problem gambler can now choose to ban themselves from multiple clubs rather than the time consuming process of visiting each venue and repeating the process time and again. Problem gamblers are provided with the following self-exclusion options: banning from the club, banning from any area of the club with poker machines and banning from any area of the club where gambling takes place such as poker machines, Keno and ClubTAB.
The internet sign-up is probably an upgrade over an earlier, unfortunate suggestion from Victoria, Australia, that those seeking to self-exclude call a hotline that, uh, promotes betting.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't Use a Fake ID to Gamble in Singapore...

...at least if you are on the exclusion list. Two gamblers have been arrested for using someone else's ID, allegedly without the permission of the relevant someone elses. "If convicted, they face a fine of up to $10,000, or a jail term of up to 10 years, or both." 

Wow, these sound like cases for a little behavioral triage for problem gambling treatment; these people need help, not prison.

Missouri Backs Off Lifetime Bans

Missouri offered the first state-wide self-exclusion system in the US, and the only bans available have been permanent, for life. Some of the more than 16,000 people who have signed up for the lifetime bans apparently would like to have their bans lifted, and have let the gambling commission know of their preference. Missouri has complied, converting the lifetime bans into five-year bans. I am all for offering a new set of bans of varying lengths, but the retroactive changes I am less sure about. Further, it looks as if all future bans will be for five years -- though if a person signs up for a second ban, then it would be of lifetime duration. (Unless Missouri does some more retroactive tinkering...)

I learned about the changes here. The article doesn't state what steps an excluded gambler has to take to be reinstated. Some states require a certification from a problem gambling professional indicating that the applicant is capable of controlled gambling.

Most of the people on Missouri's self-exclusion list will be eligible for reinstatement shortly: "The gaming commission said there are 16,148 people on the self-exclusion list, and 11,427 of them could be eligible to remove themselves starting March 31."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Self-Exclusion as a Substitute for Mandatory Limits?

The Australian government is attempting to require that all players of "pokies" (electronic gaming machines) at clubs and pubs choose an expenditure limit. When they hit that limit, the players would have to wait (24 hours?) before they could resume gambling. The Australian loyal opposition is looking into alternative measures, including a national self-exclusion system. Perhaps more controversial is the possibility of third-party or family exclusions, where someone can be barred from gambling following an application not from the gambler him or herself, but from a close family member. Of course, family exclusions already exist in Singapore -- and in Australia! Another measure that the opposition is considering is to remove ATM access at gambling locales for would-be punters on the exclusion list. The inquiry by the Australian opposition is slated to be completed by the end of the month.

Illinois Casinos and Self-Exclusion

The lack of recent posting is due to my neglect and not to any slowdown of developments in the fast-paced world of exclusion and other commitment devices. One neglected article from last October contained some interesting information about the state-wide casino self-exclusion program right here in Illinois. Here are three tidbits:

(1) "Harrah’s employees receive a $500 reward if they catch one of the individuals from that [self-exclusion] database in their casino."

(2) There are over 8,500 people on the Illinois self-exclusion list, which dates to 2002. Since that time, over 1,700 arrests have been made, presumably for excluded gamblers trespassing on casino property.

(3) The Illinois exclusion program involves a duration of five years, but reinstatement as an eligible gambler requires that a counselor provide an affidavit indicating that the individual is capable of controlled gambling. "More than 30 self-excluders have attempted to be removed from the list, the gaming board says. However, none of them have been able to provide sufficient evidence..." Wow.

Thanks to the author of the article, John Solymossy, for digging a little deeper than often is the case.

Update: The FAQ section of the Illinois Gaming Board's Self-Exclusion website gives a slightly different interpretation on reinstatement. Here it is:
The Illinois Self-Exclusion Program is for life. Removal from the list of Self-Excluded persons is very difficult. After five years a Self-Excluded person may request removal from the Self-Exclusion List. However, in order to be removed from the Self-Exclusion List, a Self-Excluded person must provide an affidavit from a licensed mental health professional who is also a certified gambling addictions counselor. The affidavit, which must be addressed to the Administrator of the Illinois Gaming Board, must attest and confirm that the licensed, certified gambling addictions counselor has determined that the Self-Excluded person no longer is a problem gambler and can gamble responsibly. Obtaining such an affidavit will be difficult.  The Administrator will take such an affidavit into consideration when deciding if a person should be removed from the Self-Exclusion List. If the submission meets the requirements for removal, there may be further investigation required by the IGB before considering the request. The IGB’s legal staff may also seek public action from the five members of the Illinois Gaming Board in order to remove a Self-Excluded person from the Self-Exclusion List.  In addition, a person seeking removal from the Self-Exclusion List must provide the following:
  • Documentation as to treatment received for the person’s gambling problem, length of treatment, and names and qualifications of treatment providers.
  • A written recommendation, from a qualified mental health professional who is a certified gambling counselor, as to the person's capacity to participate in gambling without adverse health and mental health risks or consequences related to gambling.  “Certified gambling counselor" means an individual who has completed a specific course of study in the treatment of problem gambling and has been certified by a certification organization acceptable to the Board. Those organizations include the following: National Council on Problem Gambling, American Compulsive Gambling Counselor Certification Board and the Illinois Dept of Human Services.
  • Upon request of the Administrator, a written recommendation, from a second or subsequent physician or qualified mental health professional who is a certified gambling counselor, as to the self-excluded person's capacity to participate in gambling without adverse health and mental health risks or consequences related to gambling.
  • All information required under Section 3000.755(a), including name, address, date of birth, social security number, a copy of the person’s driver’s license, a physical description and a current photograph.
  • A statement informing the Administrator whether the person has been present at any riverboat gaming operations while on the Self-Exclusion List and, if so, the names of the riverboat operations at which the person was present and dates and times of attendance.
  • A waiver of liability of the Board, its agents and the State of Illinois for any damages that may arise out of any act or omission committed by the person as a consequence of his or her removal from the Self-Exclusion List, including any monetary or other damages sustained in connection with the person's renewal of any gaming activities.
  • A verified, written consent to the release of all of the person's medical and counseling records related to the proposed removal from the Self-Exclusion List.
  • Any additional information, forms, recommendations, or other materials necessary, as determined by the Administrator, to demonstrate the elimination of the mental health or medical condition underlying the person's acknowledgement that he or she has been a problem gambler and unable to gamble responsibly.