Addicts criticise voluntary Maryland casino ban

Maryland’s self exclusion program for problem gamblers has been heavily criticised by its users as they assure it doesn’t work.

US.- Gambling addicts across Maryland have described the program through which they ban themselves from the state’s six casinos as “thoothless and unhelpful”. Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency Responsible Gambling Coordinator Mary Drexler defended the program and said: “In the application itself it says it straight out: You are really responsible for your own behavior.”

Nearly 1400 people have already signed up for the state’s lottery and gaming commission program that allows problem gamblers to enroll in a state database of banned casino customers. In case of being caught in a gaming venue, they’d be arrested and charged with trespassing by the police.

However, after criticism by the enrollees, an investigation by an I-Team from NBC Washington found out that regulators don’t require casinos to check its customers Ids and don’t have any facial recognition software or license plate readers to identidy problem gamblers that banned themselves from Maryland’s venues. Instead, addicts are pretty much required to “police themselves”.

“I think it’s very difficult for casinos to enforce,” National Council on Problem Gambling Director Keith Whyte said. “They get thousands of customers a day. You’re never asked for identification when you start losing. In fact, you’re never asked when you start to play. You can lose as much as you want without being identified.”

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency and Whyte argued that the lists are only one tool provided for problem gamblers to stay away from casinos. There are also hotlines, treatment programs and Gamblers Anonymous program that “are best used to fully combat an addiction.” “Self-exclusion is a good program and can help some people, but unless it’s surrounded by a more comprehensive program, it’s unlikely to thoroughly help people, especially those with severe gambling problems,” Whyte added.

Meanwhile, operators defend themselves and assure that they do everything in their reach to enforce the self-exclusion program. In a statement, MGM said: “We take every reasonable opportunity to ensure that people on the Voluntary Exclusion Program list are not on our property engaging in gaming. We do not ID every person through the door but we provide the photo and description for each person in the program to Surveillance and Security. We also upload it to into our Internal customer databases so as to flag any gaming activity under the person’s name.”

“At Live! Casino, we take our responsibility to prevent problem gaming very seriously,” a Maryland Live! spokeswoman argued. She added that “the State’s Voluntary Exclusion Program requires casinos to refrain from marketing directly to individuals who sign up for the program.” She also said that the responsibility lays with the addicts and assured that their casino uses “technology and security measures to identify and remove such players from our facility.”

While operators and regulators blame problem gamblers for their own actions, at least 43 people have violated the self-exclusion list onlu at Maryland Live! Casino since January 2016, as reported by Anne Arundel County Police.