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Iowa To Weaken Gambling Self-Exclusion Program

Governor Has Bill That Would Allow Five-Year Option Instead Of Just Life


A bill in Iowa would water down the ability of people with severe gambling addictions from self-banning from casinos. The measure is on the governor’s desk after state law-writers passed the proposal earlier this month.

The legislation would allow gamblers to ban themselves for five years, instead of just for life. If the five-year option is chosen the first time, expires, and a problem arises again, another five-year or life option is available. After a second five-year ban, a gambler’s only recourse would be a lifetime ban — assuming that he or she wanted to self-exclude once again.

Currently in Iowa, problems gamblers can only self-exclude for life. The “Statewide Voluntary Self Exclusion Program,” as Iowa puts it, began in 2004.

Other states have similar programs, and the Iowa measure puts it more aligned with others. In Pennsylvania. Ohio, California and New Jersey, individuals can chose a year, five years or life.

While this might seem like a natural step for Iowa, it’s worth noting that individuals who are currently self-excluded for life will have the option, under the bill, to “reapply to the licensed facilities to revoke the exclusion.” In other words, they will have another chance.

The Des Moines Register reported that one self-excluded gambler in particular may have been a catalyst for the legislation, as he complained how strict the ban was to a state lawmaker who subsequently got the ball rolling for reform on the self-exclusion program.

The number of Iowans who have self-excluded under the current system is 6,354, the Iowa Gaming Association told Card Player Monday. Only those who have been self-excluded for at least five years can submit a request to have their respective bans lifted.

Self-exclusion works, generally, by making it so a person is flagged when he or she tries to do any sort of money transaction at the casino cage. This, obviously, leaves some holes and makes it so the system isn’t by any means impenetrable. Sometimes casinos are fined for allowing problem gamblers to slip through the cracks, as was the case recently in Atlantic City.

A gambling opponent told the Des Moines Register that “the lifetime ban is a positive medium for people’s process for recovery and helps both individuals and families. Allowing people to have a five-year time frame is problematic. Recovery is a lifelong process.”

According to the American Gaming Association, Iowa has 18 operating commercial gambling facilities, which bring in revenue approaching $1.5 billion annually.

Tags: Gambling,   Casinos,   Iowa