Vice Squad
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Self-Exclusion is For Keeps in New Jersey

Vice Squad is a longtime fan of self-exclusion programs, those voluntary lists gamblers can join to be barred from entering casinos or collecting significant winnings if they do happen to sneak by. [Self-exclusion could profitably be employed for many vices, even the currently-illegal ones, I maintain.] Nevertheless, there are many ways in which existing self-exclusion programs can be improved, and lots of tricky issues concerning the details of their operation. Two issues concern the length of time over which an exclusion operates, and how to ensure that people do not self-exclude in a moment of intemperance. Both of these issues were under review in a recent New Jersey court case, in which a man was hoping to remove himself from Atlantic City's self-exclusion list. He signed up for a lifetime ban -- New Jersey also allows gamblers to choose one year or five year bans -- which he claims he joined impulsively. The erstwhile gambler was particularly distressed to learn (once he self-excluded) that those corporate Atlantic City casinos would not just exclude him from their Atlantic City locations, but from their casinos worldwide. This is a common practice. The court refused to remove him from the ban, which I think is probably the right decision.

Nevertheless, there are two obvious reforms that can help. First, people considering joining a self-exclusion list should be warned that their action might spillover to other jurisdictions. Second, long-term bans should themselves require a waiting period. A person who approaches a casino about self-exclusion should receive an immediate short-term exclusion, but for a lengthy term, he or she should have to take further action at a later date. (See the Blaszczynski, Ladouceur, and Nower suggestion noted here.) This action probably should be arranged to take place at a non-gambling locale, to reduce temptation.

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