The latest debate on gambling here in Australia is all about self-exclusion programs. Many MPs and problem gambling counsellors have suggested that the current rules in place at many Australian casinos aren’t working, and that stronger measures have to be taken in order to enforce these self-exclusion lists, while the casinos themselves believe the current system works just fine. But what exactly does self-exclusion mean?
The self-exclusion program is designed to allow those gamblers who know they have a gambling problem to take an active step in their own recovery. Generally, this occurs after a player realizes that they are spending too much time or money in the casino. They can then approach casino staff, which will then be able to guide them on how to register themselves in the self-exclusion program.
If an individual tells a casino that they would like to be placed on their exclusion list, the casino will immediately take action: their membership card for the casino is cancelled, and the gambler is provided with information on where they can get counselling and how to recognize and potentially control a compulsive gambling habit.
From that point on, the player is banned from the casino. Exactly what this means varies between Australian casinos; some only ban the individuals from the playing floor, while others will stop those on the list from entering their venue at all. Those who put themselves on exclusion lists authorize casino personnel to remove them from the premises, and allow their personal information and photographs to be circulated inside the casino in order to aid casino staff in preventing them from playing.
Interestingly, many online casinos offer self-exclusion programs as well. If players feel as though they need help in preventing their online casino habit, most sites will allow for agreements to be made that will prevent the player from betting real money on the site – either permanently, or for a predetermined amount of time.
The latest controversy over these programs erupted after a report in The Sunday Telegraph, which found that many people were able to return to casinos after having placed themselves on the self-exclusion lists. That has led some officials to question weather these lists were really doing their jobs. According to a doctor quoted in a story in the Herald Sun, it is true that self-exclusion isn’t the only step problem gamblers should take if they want to correct their behaviour.
“It is common knowledge that self-exclusion schemes do not work as stand-alone interventions,” said Dr. Keith Garner of the Wesley Mission. “Self-exclusion and gambling counselling must go hand in hand.”
Another issue with the failure of self-exclusion lists to adequately prevent gamblers from returning to casinos was pointed out by Independent senator – and noted gambling opponent – Nick Xenophon. According to him, an individual who put himself on the self-exclusion list and then gambled in that casino might very well be able to take legal action against the casino to recover their losses.
However, casinos say that their programs have proven to work well, and that even when excluded customers do manage to reach the casino floor, they are usually removed from the premises promptly. For instance, The Star said that “in the past year our staff detected nearly 500 excluded customers on the main gaming floor and a further 100 were refused entry to the casino.” The Star also pointed out that those who choose to join the self-exclusion program are told that the final responsibility lies with them to keep away from the casino.
One possibility to improve the state of the self-exclusion program would be to take a universal approach, and that’s what many gambling experts are advocating for. Under such a system, the multitude of different self-exclusion programs that exist now would be standardized under one set of rules. Perhaps even more importantly, the self-exclusion list would apply to all venues, including both casinos and clubs that offer pokies or other gambling games. It’s possible that such a list could even include online gambling sites that are regulated by federal and state governments.
Overall, it seems unlikely that self-excluded gamblers finding themselves back on the casino floor is a major issue. While some individuals almost certainly do slip through the cracks, they’ll usually be found out before too long, as the casinos point out.
That said, a universal self-exclusion list covering all gambling venues may be a good idea to help combat the issue of problem gambling. While most individuals who gamble will never need such a list, having tools in place to help those who are at risk is something everyone in the gambling industry can agree on – and a self-exclusion policy that isn’t easy for players to get around could be one of the most effective methods for limiting the harm caused by problem gambling.
If you have a problem with gambling and would like to receive help, or know someone that does; the team here at AustralianGambling.com.au strongly advises that you visit this website: Gambling Help Online.