Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Internet Gambling Self-Exclusion in the EU...and Australia?

Last week the European Parliament passed a resolution concerning the regulation of online gambling. According to this article at, the Parliament recommends that the EU adopt an internet gambling self-exclusion system through which a gambler could exclude from all EU-state-licensed sites with one application. Further, each gambler could establish system-wide money and time limits, so that reaching the self-imposed money limit on one site could not be avoided just by going to a competing EU internet gambling provider.

Incidentally, Australia is contemplating legalizing internet gambling, and in establishing a national web gambling self-exclusion system. A second proposal is to require internet gambling sites to notify gamblers when their betting behavior is suggestive of problem gambling. Australia's new prime minister, Tony Abbott, has indicated that he does not support the previous government's efforts to make self-limitation mandatory for Electronic Gaming Machine play.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A New Low in Self-Exclusion Enforcement?

Many people who place themselves on self-exclusion lists attempt to return to casinos and gamble, in violation of their exclusion agreements, and often in the face of a potential arrest for trespassing. In the absence of regulatory oversight (or the potential for litigation), casinos would seem to have a profit incentive to turn a blind eye to these transgressions by some of their best, albeit excluded, customers. But there generally is such regulatory oversight, as Philadelphia's SugerHouse Casino found out in December, 2012, when it agreed to a $10,000 fine, in part for allowing a self-excluded gambler to gamble in its casino -- twice, with the second occasion involving a nearly four-day marathon session. The same fellow came back in February, 2013, and was uncovered by the casino as being on the excluded list as he was approaching three full days (including a nap in his car) of another protracted betting fest. Apparently he never gambled in one spot for very long, but still.... More details here and here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Iowa Self-Exclusion is for Life

Back in April, the Iowa legislature passed an amendment to the statewide self-exclusion program that would have established the option of a five-year duration, along with the existing lifetime ban. Further, the legislation would have allowed the thousands of people who already have agreed to a lifetime exclusion to apply for revocation of their self-imposed ban once five years of ban time have elapsed. Governor Branstad was having none of it, however. In a letter accompanying his veto (pdf here), he explains that "the voluntary lifetime ban serves a valuable public purpose." The proposed rule change would still have allowed for lifetime bans going forward, so apparently the governor was objecting to the retroactive alteration of lifetime bans to five-year bans with the opportunity for gambling reinstatement. Missouri adopted an analogous rule change, complete with retroactive shortening of lifetime bans, a couple years ago. As of last month, almost 3,900 people rescinded their formerly-lifetime Missouri casino gambling bans.

Incidentally, the Iowa Lottery has a separate self-exclusion system (which prevents the collection of winnings of $600 or more), which also comes in only one duration style, that of a lifetime. I think there is something to be said to offering one and five-year exclusion options, so that self-exclusion can be more enticing for people who are not quite ready to forever renounce their in-state gambling options.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Class-Action For Canadian Self-Excluders II

In Ontario, the Court of Appeal has affirmed earlier rulings that gamblers who self-excluded, but who were not effectively kept away from continued casino gambling, can not pursue a class action lawsuit against the casino operators, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. The court upheld the trial judge's reasoning that potential liability was dependent on personal circumstances, so that the members of the would-be class were not sufficiently similarly situated to justify class certification. Individual lawsuits can still proceed, of course, and many in the past have led to substantial settlements.

Self-Exclusion noted the trial court ruling back in 2010, followed last year by the Court of Appeal's announcement of its willingness to hear the appeal. Here's a short video (with links to two more videos) on self-exclusion provided by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

New South Wales Expands Multi-Venue Exclusion

New South Wales (NSW) began experimenting with multi-venue exclusions more than one-year ago. Now the system is spreading state-wide, with training being provided to more than 500 gambling industry workers and counsellors this month. Gamblers can exclude from multiple gambling sites either from casino premises, or off-site. Internet-initiated multi-site self-exclusion also is on offer. One interesting (and helpful) feature of NSW self-exclusion is that the excluded gambler can choose to have a friend or relative notified of the self-exclusion agreement -- shades of the referee option in contracts. (Unlike the system in New Zealand, these third-parties cannot initiate the exclusion process -- but NSW casinos can exclude patrons whom they believe are harming their own welfare.) 

As far as I can tell, the minimum period for self-exclusion in New South Wales is six months.  Self-exclusions can be revoked prior to their termination date (though not, presumably, prior to some minimum time period, which again might be six months -- see Appendix E of this fine report).

Punters might choose to exclude from just one venue, despite the multi-site capability. New South Wales also offers premises-specific exclusions at venues licensed for alcohol sales, even if there is no gambling -- these exclusions, of course, are aimed at people who want to control their alcohol consumption. I don't know if Australia has policies that can impose exclusion on those who have a history of alcohol-related offenses. (Britain once imposed an alcohol ban with a clause that allowed the person involved to patronize an alcohol-serving bingo hall, as long as he did not drink there.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Ineffectively Excluded Win the Right to Sue as a Class

Back in August, 2012, Self-Exclusion noted that the Ontario (Canada) Supreme Court was willing to hear an appeal from self-excluded gamblers as to whether they could proceed with a class-action suit. The class would consist of gamblers who placed themselves on the excluded list, but who subsequently broke their exclusion order by returning to a casino to gamble.
But Ontario is not the only province in Canada that is facing this issue. The British Columbia Supreme Court now has spoken on a similar case, ruling that the gamblers may indeed proceed with their class-action suit. In this instance, however, the class is not simply those who continued to gamble after self-excluding. Rather, the class is a subset of those stealthy gamblers who at some point were not allowed to collect a jackpot that they had won, once it was learned they were on the excluded list.

One of the complicating factors in this case is that originally, the forfeiture of winnings was not an element of the self-exclusion system in British Columbia. This feature was added on April 1, 2009, as a method of increasing the deterrence of gambling for those on the excluded list. The named plaintiffs in the current case self-excluded before jackpot denial was an element of the exclusion plan, but won their jackpots after the implementation of the scheme. (Though they won a few (denied) jackpots, in overall terms, both of the gamblers lost quite a bit of money gambling while excluded.)

The court decision re-iterates that the British Columbia exclusion system was constantly being tested by excluded gamblers. (Self-Exclusion noted this issue some years ago.) One of the plaintiffs was caught attempting to gamble in breach of his order some 15 times. Here is the section of the Court opinion entitled "Enforcement of the VSE Program":
[39]         As of October 2011, there were approximately 6,300 persons enrolled in the VSE program.

[40]         Until mid-June 2009, BCLC’s primary means of enforcing the VSE Program was to rely on the ability of security staff at gaming facilities to recognize VSE Program participants by sight.

[41]         In June 2009, BCLC started using license plate recognition to identify VSE Program participants. Since its introduction, this technology has led to almost 4,000 entry denials or removals of VSE Program participants.

[42]         From 2007 until October 2011, VSE Program participants were denied entry or removed from gaming facilities on more than 36,750 occasions.

[43]         Between April 1, 2009, and June 3, 2010, Jackpot Prizes were withheld from 105 VSE Program participants on 113 different occasions.

[44]         Between June 4, 2010, and July 4, 2012, a total of 187 Jackpot Prizes were withheld from VSE Program participants.
Incidentally, the jackpots that are withheld from excluded gamblers are not kept by the casino; rather, they are donated to a third party.

Note that the recent court decision remains a far cry from requiring that the old jackpots be given to excluded gamblers; it only allows them to form a class to try their luck in court. They still must show that the British Columbia Lottery Corporation breached a contract with the excluded gamblers, or behaved in an unconscionable fashion.