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"Virtual" dealers vs. flesh-and-blood dealers: What has been... [Continued]





Question of the Day March 31, 2010


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Q:

My 5-year self-imposed ban is scheduled to be finished 05/10/10 in Arizona, and I was curious to see if you knew if one can confirm they will remove my name from the list here in Arizona. My main concern is: Harrah's carried this self-ban outside of my state, even though it was only meant for Arizona, and I want the opportunity to finally play (even for free – sponsored) in the WSOP following my end date this year. Ironically, I work in the financial industry and I don’t trust, well any financial establishment, or that Harrah's will lift my ban in early May so that I may enter the events. Do you know of any other incidents or proof one can obtain they will comply with the contract I signed here in Arizona? If not, would you please send me in the right direction? (I've tried myself, but could not find answers.) Thank you very much for your assistance.

A:

This was an interesting question that we wanted to get to the bottom of, so we posed it to the PR spokeswoman for Harrah's Entertainment, who's always very helpful and got back to us within a day. We'll explain below what she told us, but first a little background.

Harrah's was a pioneer in the realm of problem-gambling initiatives and takes the issue very seriously. Here's what Carol O'Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, had to say about them in a 2009 interview in the Las Vegas Sun:

"Harrah's has a unique component to its responsible gaming efforts within its properties. It's not just putting out the signs, putting up the brochures, providing information to guests. It actually has a very aggressive training program for management that involves creating trained ambassadors who are really equipped to go in and sit down and speak to a guest if there is a problem that presents itself in a way that the company feels that it needs to at least inform the guest that it's concerned about what's going on. It's still not trying to determine if someone has a gambling problem. But I think it's trying to be very aggressive about paying attention to the information that comes to the company through the guest's behavior or through employees making reports and comments about their concerns with a guest."

The voluntary self-exclusion list is a concept that was first introduced by Missouri in 1996 at the request of a player and has since been adopted by a number of states that have legal gaming, inlcluding Nevada, New Jersey, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Louisiana, Kansas, Pennyslvania, and Arizona. The program works differently in different jurisdictions: Some states extend a ban for life; others offer different options, including being banned for one, two, five, or 10 years, as well as the lifetime ban. And while a state may not have a program, individual casinos may operate their own. For example, Connecticut does not have a state-run self-exclusion program, but both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos do. Conversely, while researching this answer we read that the Golden Eagle Casino in Kansas recently mailed those on the self-exclusion list a letter stating that their exclusion would no longer be honored because the casino was finding the program too difficult to maintain.

With regard to those states/casinos that do operate self-exclusion programs, the way that it generally works is that those gamblers who have asked not to be allowed to gamble can be arrested for trespassing upon reentering the casino doors. Other aspects of the program include making sure casinos do not solicit self-banned players with junkets, special offers, or any other incentives to visit, and the revocation of check-cashing privileges. If a banned player gets in under the radar and wins money, their winnings will be confiscated.

As far as this particular reader's situation is concerned, here's what Harrah's explained to us. Since he approached the state of Arizona, as opposed to Harrah's, to implement his voluntary ban, it's his responsibility to ensure that Arizona releases the ban. Once that happens, Arizona will contact Harrah's (and any other casinos whose self-exclusion programs the individual signed up for) and instruct them that the ban has expired and that the name should be removed. Although this gentleman only wanted to be banned in the state where he lived, Harrah's own program is group-wide, so once Arizona contacted their local casinos to implement the state ban, his name was automatically added to the national Harrah's list. Here's a link to the Arizona Gaming Department's self-exclusion procedure and here's a link to the form you fill in if you wish your name to be added to the list -- an irreversible step during the lifetime of any ban you sign up for.

We've been corresponding with this reader while we obtained the information that he required and, since there's only a small window between when his ban expires and the WSOP event that he's been sponsored to play in, he told us he'll likely go down to the Gaming Dept's office downtown to ensure they let Harrah's know that he's no longer excluded and is eligible to play. Here's what else he had to say:

"I think this self-ban is a great idea for people who have a major problem with gaming. It should remind them if they're thinking about entering the casino they will be illegally trespassing and, in addition, if they play slots and win a hand-paid amount, the casino will have to donate the winnings to charity. I think, in addition to getting professional help (I did) and acting responsibly for one's actions, people in this situation should absolutely commit to the self-ban.

"I did have a problem with slots and blackjack back in 2003-2005. Unfortunately, even though I placed the ban on myself, I continued to go to the local AZ Casinos, even after the ban was in place. They only kicked me out once, which was because I attempted to use a credit card transaction to pull out more money.

"I have not been back to an AZ casino since. I stopped going about 3½ years ago. Since then, I have picked up FREE poker at my local watering holes. While playing that "free" poker, I've developed both skills and friendships, and met people that have understood my previous addiction.

"I understand I had a problem in the past. I have done all I could do to deal with that. I just want the contract I signed (for 5 years) to be honored, so I can enter these establishments legally, morally, and with responsibility this time.

"Again, I appreciate all the work you put into this. You have taken a great weight off my shoulders. And maybe this could be brought more into the light to help those with problems."

To which we respond that we're more than happy to help and wish you well in the WSOP (please let us know how you do!) We hope that all goes well for you in the future and that your problem with gambling is well and truly under control now.

If anyone reading this answer thinks they might have a problem, or knows someone else who does, here's a link to the website for the National Council on Problem Gambling, where you'll find lots of information and guidance about where to go for help. Their 24-hour confidential hotline is 800/522-4700.

UPDATE: 04-07-2010 
"The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board today fined Washington Trotting Association, operator of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, $20,000 for allowing self-excluded persons to access the gaming floor and play slot machines.


"The fine was part of a consent agreement between the Board's Office of Enforcement Counsel and the operator of the Washington County casino. The civil penalties, unanimously approved by the Board at its public meeting today in Harrisburg, were for two incidents that occurred at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino between November 2009 and January 2010." (The self-exclusion program has been in place since 2006.)


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