Reaching Out to Help: Casinos and Problem Gamblers

The phenomenon of problem gambling constitutes a PR headache for many people who own and run casinos. For whatever reason, many casinos—both online and offline—are trying to help people who are (or suspect they might be) problem gamblers. This article examines some of the initiatives.

Internet Casinos

Many internet casinos have a page devoted to Responsible Gaming. This page sets out the major principles of the philosophy. At the very least, this page usually will contain useful information and links, as well as a questionnaire to help indicate whether or not one’s gambling behavior is indeed problematic. In some cases, this page may publicize the casino’s self-exclusion option. Players can contact casino staff and ask to have their accounts locked, if they feel that they are unable to control their behavior without somebody else’s help. The software in some casinos may actually have some limitations placed on the financial actions of all players, whether they request it or not. For example, there may be a cap on the amount of money you deposit in your site account per month. Underage gambling is also a concern under Responsible Gaming principles. Underage players (usually considered to comprise those under 18 and/or whoever is not of age in his or her area) are not allowed to play at sites that believe in Responsible Gaming. Advice is also offered to concerned parents to ensure that their children are not gambling. Of course, the casinos themselves cannot be relied upon to actually furnish therapy, since they are not the experts in the field. It makes a lot more sense for them to help people control their habits through restriction, or to point the way to organizations that might offer support.

Offline Casinos

Casinos are not famous for reaching out to help problem gamblers. However, there are instances of them helping indirectly, via investing in efforts to combat pathological gambling. The new Problem Gambling Hospital in Soho, London, is one such example. The hospital is funded by “the gaming industry,” so the casino itself cannot be accused of “taking” people’s tax money.

The hospital has many interesting features. Firstly, not only does it help the gamblers themselves, it offers therapy to their families as well. After all, one person’s gambling addiction (as with other addictions) does affect the family, emotionally as well as financially. At the time the hospital was built, it was mainly for outpatients, but there were also plans to try to get in-patient facilities. These would be for the extreme cases, wherein debts and other gambling-related problems have driven patients to want to attempt suicide.

Voluntary exclusion programs are found in brick-and-mortar casinos too, not just in online casinos. The way it works is that you sign up, and from then on, you are basically banned from the internet video poker casino. If you enter it, you will be arrested. A similar feature—albeit milder—is found in government lottery programs. If you sign up, you cannot take out your winnings, even if your number is picked, so buying heavily into the lottery is just pointless. (Of course, some people do find ways to circumvent this, such as buying by proxy.)