Ohio's Gambling Addicts Can Ban Themselves
A 52-year-old man opts to exclude himself from Ohio's casinos for life; officials expect he'll be the first of many.
Compulsive gamblers can now voluntarily ban themselves from casinos in Ohio, thanks to a law introduced earlier this year. Justin Gale, a 52-year-old office worker, is the first—and so far only—participant in the Ohio Casino Control Commission's "Voluntary Exclusion" program. But officials say at least 10 other applications are awaiting approval—and they expect between 5,000 and 10,000 people will participate altogether. The program is modeled after similar schemes in Oklahoma and over a dozen other states, and people can apply to be banned from the casinos for either a year, five years or life. Those who choose the one or five-year bans can apply to have their names removed from the list once the term is up—but those who chose the lifetime ban can never be taken off. Anyone on the list who is caught in a casino will be charged with trespassing and must forfeit any winnings. "It's a wonderful thing knowing that it's illegal to step foot in a casino," says Gale, who chose the lifetime ban and proudly displays his framed letter from the commission notifying him that he's banned from the casinos. But experts warn that while a self-exclusion program can help, it's not a substitute for treatment. "Unless it's coupled with prevention and treatment, it can't be effective and adequate," says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling in Washington, DC. "Unless you can do something to actually help them address their problem, you're trying to bring an enforcement solution to a health issue." Still, many states feel that exclusion programs are a good start; 15 out of the 23 states with commercial casinos operate similar programs, and many casino companies run their own as well.