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Brown Introduces State-of-the-Art Technology to Help California Gambling Addicts Help Themselves
SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today unveiled an innovative, web-based computer program for all of California’s licensed cardrooms that is intended to help addicted gamblers break “their spiral of debt and addiction” by allowing them to voluntarily exclude themselves from gambling establishments.
“This system serves as a safety net for gambling addicts fighting to end their spiral of debt and addiction,” Brown said. “These are people who have chosen to help themselves, and we’ll assist them in keeping their pledges not to gamble.”
An estimated one million Californians suffer from problem or pathological gambling, and more than 1,000 of them have signed up for the Attorney General’s Self Exclusion Program, which allows problem gamblers to voluntarily exclude themselves from licensed cardrooms. So far, the program applies only to card rooms and not to the California lottery, tribal casinos or horse racing, but if the cardroom program is successful, it can be expanded.
To join the Self Exclusion Program, a problem gambler fills out a form, has it notarized, attaches a photograph and chooses to be excluded for one year, five years or his or her lifetime. The Self Exclusion form can be found at http://ag.ca.gov/gambling/exclusion_self.php
Of the 1,009 gamblers voluntarily on the list, 285 are for one-year terms, 196 are on for five- years, and 528 signed up for lifetime terms. Options are offered because some patrons are trying to learn to gamble responsibly while others are pathological or compulsive gamblers.
The program started in 2007 with a paper list of excluded gamblers mailed from the Attorney General’s office to cardrooms throughout the state. Starting this summer, the profiles and photographs of banned patrons are going live onto a database accessible to the 90 licensed cardrooms in the state.
Cardroom security, cashiers and surveillance personnel can run a patron’s name, driver’s license number or zip code in the database to see if he or she is banned from gambling.
If the profile and picture match, the banned patron is escorted out of the building, and any winnings are confiscated. All of the confiscated winnings are used for Problem Gambling Prevention training and treatment services including the production of self-help workbooks for problem gamblers (available in 18 languages); free gambling toolkits; a book that includes warning signs, causes and stages of problem gambling; and financial management tips.
The exclusion database also includes patrons who have been convicted of a felony or have violated gambling laws in any state.
The California Council on Problem Gambling has provided data on the 5,009 calls received on its crisis hotline (1-800-GAMBLER) in 2009:
• 78.5% of callers were gamblers, 7.5% were their spouses and 14% were others including family members, therapists or employers.
• The callers’ average personal debt was $29, 972.
• The average amount of money the callers spent gambling was $28,647.
• 53% of the callers said they financed their gambling with credit cards.
• 38% said their credit cards were maxed out.
The Attorney General’s website lists inpatient and outpatient treatment centers and accredited counselors specializing in addiction treatment. See http://ag.ca.gov/gambling/responsible.php