Legislative Efforts to Curb Problem Gambling

Geoff Schoos of the Cranston Herald writes about some new legislation that would create a “self-exclusion” list at gambling establishments to keep pathological gamblers from relapsing and victimizing themselves and their families repeatedly with debt. From The Cranston Herald:

One of the perks of my job is I get the opportunity to meet people who only want to make Rhode Island a better place to live. About two weeks ago, I met John Mongelli of Lincoln.

John is on a mission to change public policy as it relates, or in fact does not relate, to gambling addiction. In fact, he has caused bills to be introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly. The first, SB 720, is sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry and co-sponsored by Cranston’s Josh Miller. The second, HB 6003, is sponsored by John’s local house representative, Peter Petrarca, and is scheduled for a hearing before the House HEW committee, chaired by Warwick’s Joseph McNamara, on April 2.

The legislation urged by Mongelli would require large gambling venues, such as Twin River and Newport Grand, to provide training and procedures to their employees that address the needs of “problem” or “pathological” gamblers. HB 6003, entitled the Uniform Compulsive and Problem Gambling Program, would provide a statutory scheme whereby these large gambling venues, assisted and monitored by the Rhode Island Lottery and the Permanent Joint Committee on Lotteries, would be required to “prevent employees from willfully permitting a person on a self-exclusion list from engaging in gaming activities at a licensed establishment or facility.”

A self-exclusion list contains the names of persons who, either volitionally or by their own acts, have identified themselves as problem or pathological gamblers. A person can volitionally self-identify by completing a form with the licensed facility, thereby excluding himself from participation in gaming activities at that facility. […]

Click the above link to read the whole thing. Sounds like a good idea to me.

8 thoughts on “Legislative Efforts to Curb Problem Gambling

  1. Why do you doubt it will be effective? It might not cure the problem, but it should help keep out the repeat offenders. Is your argument that they will cross state lines to gamble or find other ways?

  2. My understanding is that Foxwoods has sophisticated facial recognition software that will id self-excluded folks. In addition, I understand that there’s an interface between the data of self-excluded persons and ATM machines on the various sites in CT.

    Although it was pointed out in the projo that there is in place a program/policy for self-exclusion at each of the two large gambling venues in RI, based on my discussions that program isn’t trained to and its implementation is spotty at best.

    This is no panacea for gambling addiction, but it’s a start – and a relatively low cost start at that.

  3. Well, many addicts have the same behaviors for different addictions. For a person to be honest and put themselves on a list is a START. They are starting to get the ‘want to’ part. If they are on a list for places that use sophisticated means to intervene it will help…but, just like the alcoholic there WILL be recitivism. Period.
    When an alcohlic ‘uses up’ one drinking venue, he will find places and people to continue with. In a moment of clarity I went to a fine rehab center for one month.
    Then I continued to drink for 10 more years.

    In conclusion, let me relate one story about addicted gamblers.
    I worked at a mfg facility in rural Kansas for years. It was a very small town, in fact more people worked there than lived there. There was one store in the town and I always ate lunch there, so I got to know the locals. The story is about one indigent couple who were living in a relative’s trailer on their remote farm property. They had moved there from Las Vegas for the reasons we discuss. The old geographical cure. I befriended them and learned their story. Now they were living on foodstamps and one person’s Social Security. They came to this one small store every time the check arrived, where they stayed and played keno and scratch cards till their money was gone. This story exactly parallels the story that crack addicts told in treatment.

    Sorry so long winded….carry on.

  4. OOPS, forgot to mention one thing. Once they’ve excluded themselves from the casinos they will find backroom crap games and poker games. They needn’t leave the state. You’ll just have to believe me…I’ve seen it all.

  5. sekanblogger,

    Your comments are well taken. Getting names on a list is a start – no more. But at least it’s a start.

    One of the points I tried to make in a limited amount of time was that addiction, whether gambling or some other addiction, is a disease. Thus, it must be treated as a disease. Before that can occur, we need to stop treating addictive behavior as willful.

    As you so eloquently point out, an intervention – irrespective of level of sophistication – is merely that, an intervention. Intervention is no substitute for treatment. I agree that if one venue is closed to an addict, whether it be a casino or a bar, the addict will seek another venue until s/he get what’s needed.

    Additionally, like your example of the folks who moved to Kansas from Las Vegas, addicted persons will find other outlets to satisfy their addiction. I have a friend who was addicted to crack. All he thought about from waking to the time he fell asleep was how to score his next vial. He wasn’t always successful and in those instances he consumed copious amounts of 152 proof rum. While not a great substitute, it was the best he could do and it got him over the hump until his next score. The substitutes may change, but the behavior tends to be consistent.

    We need to make addiction treatment part of an overall health care scheme. We do it with diabetes, heart disease, etc., but not with addictions. Until we recognize the “disease” component, we won’t be able to further the serious and complicated work of providing treatment.

  6. Coincidentally, I just finished reading a story by psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude about treating a Chinese-immigrant couple to address the husband’s compulsive gambling. The essay contained some startling facts:

    –collectively in the US gamblers lose over $80 billion a year and that’s not counting the huge and growing internet gambling market.

    — there are 2300 offshore internet-based gambling casinos

    –the rates of suicide are up to 4 times higher in cities with legalized gambling comared to similar cities that outlaw gambling

    — Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate in the nation

    Aboujaoude mentions self-exclusion lists, by the way, and recommends the clients with compulsive gambling problems volunteer themselves for such lists.

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